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VI farmers continuously hindered by water constraints

- concerns grow about government's interest and input in farmers’ welfare
Moviene Fahie displays some sweet peppers grown on her farm at Paraquita Bay. Fahie said she needed more land and solutions to the water problems she was currently experiencing. Photo: VINO
Seedlings for plants to be grown on Moviene Fahie's farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Seedlings for plants to be grown on Moviene Fahie's farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
An exceptional banana tree grown by Moviene Fahie has produced five bunches of bananas at one time. Photo: VINO
An exceptional banana tree grown by Moviene Fahie has produced five bunches of bananas at one time. Photo: VINO
Spinach grown on Moviene Fahie's farm. Photo: VINO
Spinach grown on Moviene Fahie's farm. Photo: VINO
Papayas grown on Moviene Fahie's farm. Photo: VINO
Papayas grown on Moviene Fahie's farm. Photo: VINO
Dwight Pickering holds his awards for best orchard farmer in Tortola won over three consecutive years (2010-2012). Photo: VINO
Dwight Pickering holds his awards for best orchard farmer in Tortola won over three consecutive years (2010-2012). Photo: VINO
Cucumbers reaped by Dwight Pickering from his farm at Greenland. Photo: VINO
Cucumbers reaped by Dwight Pickering from his farm at Greenland. Photo: VINO
Pineapples grown on Dwight Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
Pineapples grown on Dwight Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
Pickering inspects an eggplant damaged by birds on his farm at Greenland. Photo: VINO
Pickering inspects an eggplant damaged by birds on his farm at Greenland. Photo: VINO
An old, non-working tiller stands next to a water drum on Dwight Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
An old, non-working tiller stands next to a water drum on Dwight Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
Bananas grown on Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
Bananas grown on Pickering's farm. Photo: VINO
A row of corn grown on Dwight Pickering's farm at Greeenland. Photo: VINO
A row of corn grown on Dwight Pickering's farm at Greeenland. Photo: VINO
Chickens feed at Frett's poultry farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Chickens feed at Frett's poultry farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Poultry feed bought by Vincent Frett for his chickens at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Poultry feed bought by Vincent Frett for his chickens at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Pigs on Michael's farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
Pigs on Michael's farm at Paraquita Bay. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – “I grow everything… breadfruit, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas – a mixture – I grow everything,” said Moviene Fahie.

She also grows cassava, pigeon peas, mangoes, breadfruit, cucumbers, and peppers among other items on her four farms located at Paraquita Bay.

According to Fahie, most of her produce is sold to the RiteWay and One Mart supermarkets while other items are sold on her own at a tent she normally sets up in Road Town.

“Right now I want land and water, nobody is giving me any,” she added. It is a familiar cry echoed by crop as well as livestock farmers around the Virgin Islands.

Fahie has been farming at the Paraquita Bay location for over 25 years but said she had been involved in farming from an early age. She has won several champion farmer awards over the years.

Former Chief Minister, H. Lavity Stoutt offered her a plot of land as well as the current NDP administration. She currently utilises a plot that measures approximately 2 acres for one of her farms but stated that this is not enough and she needed at least 10 acres of land.

Water issues have been plaguing many farmers at the Paraquita Bay location and other areas for most of the past year and there seems to be no solution in sight to the farmers’ plight.

Farmers at a recent meeting at the Department of Agriculture’s conference room in Paraquita Bay explained that water supply was inconsistent in the area and also non-existent for some farmers; this forced them to expend significant sums on acquiring water and trucking it to their farms in order to bring some measure of relief and to maintain the growth of their produce.

“I’m trying you know… right now agriculture is dead in the BVI,” Fahie related. Fahie expressed that she was frustrated and tired of complaining to authorities in hopes of assistance.

One of the issues that severely affects Fahie’s produce at the Paraquita Bay location, is the numerous chickens that run wild across the Territory. She has enlisted the help of several dogs to keep them at bay, but this often proves to be an exercise in futility.

Meanwhile, another farmer who appeared to be pressing on in spite of adverse conditions was, Dwight Pickering of Greenland.

Pickering, another crop farmer in the Territory, also expressed that he lost significant sums trying to acquire water that was suitable to maintain the growth of his crops.

Pickering has been farming for the past eight years at his one-acre Greenland property and also has a wide variety of crops. He produces fruits and vegetables at his farm including banana, mango, pineapple, coconut, soursop, breadfruit, corn, tomatoes, pumpkin, celery and parsley among others. He too expressed a desire for more land space for his crops.

“I try just about any fruit that would grow,” Pickering disclosed. “What I do every year is, I try with maybe two or three new crops and when I’m comfortable with those, then I move on to something else.”

Pickering sells his produce at the Bolo’s parking lot on Saturdays and says he gets produce sold to One Mart and other supermarkets whenever there is any excess.

“This property that we’re on,” he said, “this was the first plantation on the island.”

Pickering’s property seemed to offer evidence of a deep cultural heritage, a heritage that he was particularly proud of. The property once belonged to John Pickering, a direct ancestor who is listed as the first Lieutenant Governor of the Virgin Islands. He was the first Quaker to arrive on the island and is believed to have settled some time in 1741.

Pickering also showed this news site the remains of one of the first Quaker meeting place on his property, now reduced to one row of debris and slightly covered in undergrowth.

He won awards over a period of three consecutive years (2010-2012) for being the best orchard farmer in the Territory. It was another source of pride for the farmer.

Pickering, much like some of his counterparts around the Territory, also holds another job. He has been a radio announcer for over 40 years and currently works with the local ZBVI radio station for a period during the day. He reads the news cast at noon and works as a DJ for a few hours before returning to the day to day grind on his farm.

He described working on the farm as a 7-days-a-week pursuit and noted that it was something he did on his own. According to Pickering, hiring employees to assist on his farm would not prove profitable in the long run.

Speaking of his water woes, Pickering explained that he used the public water supply in the area, “It’s pretty reliable in this part of the island,” he stated, “but it’s very expensive.”

He disclosed that he was also affected by a recent drought in the Territory, “It means using an excessive amount of water… every morning and every afternoon religiously,” he said. He noted that the chlorine content in the water did not necessarily ‘agree’ with his crop production and suggested that a well might be of some assistance.

“There are a few other famers in the area, but they’re all facing the same challenge,” he said while inspecting some of the pineapples on his farm. Pineapples seemed to fare better with the arid weather.

“I think government just needs to pinpoint or identify all the serious farmers in the Territory and give them reasonable water rates that they can work with,” Pickering proposed, “a lot of people have gone out of business because of the water rate.” He described his water bill as astronomical and bothersome, but said he continues to go on “by faith”.

Pickering received assistance with fencing material as well as four 1000 gallon water tanks when he first started farming. There is also assistance with tilling of the soil from the Department by means of a tractor on a section of his farm but he does most of the work manually and on his own.

Asked about the support he received in selling his produce, Pickering said he noticed a reduction after the economic downturn in 2008 but added, “I think people in the BVI right now are beginning to realise the importance of eating fresh produce… so there is an awakening in that regard.”

Meanwhile, livestock farmer Vincent Frett disclosed that he too has been troubled by the water issues affecting farmers at Paraquita Bay. Frett said that he has been farming for the past five years. He currently raises broiler chickens after starting out with crops.

“I’m just [rearing] chickens right now,” he said, “I can’t do anything else because there is no water.” Frett previously grew bananas on his plot of land at Paraquita Bay but said these were destroyed by a storm a few years ago. He said that he was promised compensation for his losses but this never materialised.

Frett was assisted with a water tank and fencing material when he first started farming at Paraquita Bay. He currently sources water from a well in East End at a significant cost.

“It’s tough up here,” he said while noting that many farmers in the area had a problem with the Chief Agricultural Officer in meeting their concerns. “He doesn’t care about us,” he added, “a lot of things they could help us with but they’re not.”

Frett related that electricity to the area was recently disconnected but when enquiries were made, the Chief indicated that he wasn’t aware that persons were using power in the location. He also won an award for best poultry farmer in the area a few years ago and found it surprising that this course was taken. It was a frustrating period for the farmer.

He also disclosed that feed costs were prohibitive and this was challenging when payment arrangements were taken into consideration for the sale of his poultry. “When you start it’s like you can’t get out,” Frett said, “because you’re going to keep owing the feed guy.”

Nearby, Michael [only name given], also faced similar challenges with the water supply for rearing his pigs being inconsistent but he too perseveres in spite of this. Cleaning his pens and providing water for the animals has proven to be a significant challenge along the way.

Another part time farmer who described his struggles, Wilburn A. Penn, said he had only been farming for a few years now, but did this on a small scale because of his water challenges. He grows mostly peppers and celery and experiments with new crops as he progressed.

Above all else, farmers continue to cry out for solutions to their water problems but seem to continuously encounter roadblocks instead of the much needed assistance for farming to progress decisively within the Territory.

Attempts to contact Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, Arona Forbes, for any comments that she might wish to make proved unsuccessful up to post time.

15 Responses to “VI farmers continuously hindered by water constraints”

  • tom cat (08/04/2013, 09:03) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    With the financial services industry under attack this is certainly a step in the right direction!!!
  • . (08/04/2013, 09:52) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    bring on the greenhouses
  • yellow (08/04/2013, 10:21) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    doc picko fell asleep on the job
  • drake (08/04/2013, 10:34) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Not to mash on any toes, but the lady wants 10 acres she says..She sells to the local supermarkets, very good indeed. But tell me now, is the government suppose to give you this 10 acres? Interesting...How much of the money thats made is would be given back to the government after just waking up one morning and giving you this land..My thing is people want t he government to help them get started but then after the start then what? Then the goverment is labeled to be "wasting tax payers money"
    Make use of what you have...Some farmers barely have a half acre and you should be proud to say you have 2 Ms Fahie.... you complain about everything
    gggggggggggggggeeeeeezz man
    • THE ACCOUNTANT (08/04/2013, 10:58) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
      like a thief in the night, after the govt had promised othewise on farming support!!!
  • pat (08/04/2013, 10:35) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    Anybody but doc all he cares bout is this airport for his white friends
  • ann (08/04/2013, 10:55) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Dis place...
  • waay boy (08/04/2013, 11:38) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    they give her 2 acres of land, lawd they must provide the water too, i dont think water truck stop running, at least buy the water no.
    • drake (08/04/2013, 13:35) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      exactly my point..some people wish the 2 acres she here bragging bout. too da*& ungreatful man.. Everything they want from government.
  • links (08/04/2013, 13:25) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    "Government, give me give me". That's BVI national anthem.
  • asur (08/04/2013, 15:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I congratulate all the farmers for their hard work at production despite the many issues the main one being lack of support from government
  • farmer (08/04/2013, 18:22) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    If the lady want more land let her get an acre or two from her chief who fence up eight acres of his family land at Government expense and there is not a cow to be seen on the land. These civil servants now doing what the Ministers are doing. This is a shame.
  • Farmer Browne (08/04/2013, 21:48) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    All the things the farmer are talking about government this government that the more they get the more they want,that lady un josiahs bay who always win best poultry farmer, I hear only get the money she win and not even a sheet of galvanize from them they say she not from here and she have a bigger and better farm than all them who getting from government,and she always have chicken to supply them ah the people the dept should help.
  • Real (10/04/2013, 08:46) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Ms. Fahie continues to do a great job
  • UK student (11/04/2013, 01:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    scary but let the truth be known


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