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St Augustine Nurseries a historically important institution

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It was heartwarming to see the photo of the Prime Minister of our country with an interested and engaged young teacher in front of a gloriously green grow box full of garden fresh patchoi at the Carenage Girls’ Government School, promoting a pilot programme to stimulate careers in farming.

This is welcome news since our country suffers severely from major food and nutritional insecurity and we need more farmers.

It was curious and dissonant, therefore, to witness the controversy bubbling up over the St Augustine Nursery, a historically important institution contributing to the conservation of plant genetic resources and crop biodiversity.

“The lack of national policy on the important issue of the conservation, documentation and sustainable utilisation of crop genetic resources for food and agriculture has hampered, in the past, initiatives aimed at developing comprehensive programmes in the conservation of agricultural crop species. There is ample evidence to establish that over the last ten years, traditional crop varieties are being lost as a result of the general decline of the agricultural sector.” —Second FAO Country Report on PGRFA(1)

So it is especially commendable that the Agricultural Society brought to public attention the potential loss (again) of the best quality arable land to a housing development instead of its regeneration and remediation to fulfill the purposes in research and training in germ plasm protection for which the Nursery was established.

Rather than a politicised shouting match, consider that the admirable projects to promote a new generation of farmers can only benefit from sustained dedication to a nursery facility like St Augustine, which can improve the very quality and resilience of the crops we need to become food secure.

One final suggestion: consider building communities instead of building housing. When one thinks about what makes a happy wholesome community, there are gardens, open spaces, schools, places of worship and serenity and shops within walking distance. Meeting, knowing and caring for your neighbours is part of the design.

So let’s give some more thought to both rebuilding our agricultural sector by preserving, conserving and maintaining institutions like the St Augustine Nursery and to building communities instead of just shelters.

Founder, Green Market Santa Cruz


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