His Excellency William E. Herminie, Minister for Agriculture and Marine Resources of the Republic of Seychelles
I am pleased to report on the progress we have made over the last five years and since the adoption of the Rome Declaration and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.
Since attaining national sovereignty two and a half decades ago Seychelles has placed its people at the centre of development. The Government's policies have aimed at national development linked to a progressively improving standard of living for all its citizens. The development of agriculture and fisheries has been a central part of our national development efforts and will continue to be so.
We do not have extensive land resources for agriculture and continue to depend on food imports to a large extent. But within our limitations we strive to maximise our capacity for food production. The FAO's Horizon 2010 initiative has provided a new impetus for our endeavours, and we are at the stage of finalising a new National Agriculture and Fisheries Policy for the coming decade based on the crucial concept of sustainable production.
In our policy we recognize the complementary roles of the private sector as the major producers and that of the State as the facilitator and, to the extent that such a role is required, that of regulator. We will place emphasis on furthering an enabling and supportive environment for producers.
In Seychelles, we have gone beyond mobilizing political will and resources, and we are in the process of empowering those who are involved in agricultural and fisheries production to strive to greater heights.
While our land resources are limited, we have the good fortune of being surrounded by an ocean which we hope will remain, by the grace of God and our own intelligent and far-sighted efforts, a source of food for all countries whose shores it washes and others, more faraway, as well. In these efforts, the Seychelles Fishing Authority and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, which is based in our capital, Victoria, have crucial roles to play.
The Seychelles is also in its second Environment Management Plan which has been developed involving the widest scope of stakeholders. This Environment Management Plan 2000 to 2010 also addresses issues of food supply and security in terms of sustainable development, and numerous programmes have been identified which will look at current practice in agriculture and fisheries, to ensure sustainability of technology and practice, and for capacity-building.
Allow me to raise a point that is of concern to us and, I am sure, to other states especially other Small Island Developing States. In 1997 my country suffered unusually heavy rains and since then, there has been a lack of rainfall. In 1997 and 1998 we also experienced high ocean temperatures and severe bleaching to our corals. I understand that the scientific community is now in general agreement that climate change is indeed upon us, and that its negative effects will be exacerbated unless all the countries of our one and only planet take appropriate measures. While it may take many more years before the rising sea level drowns us or forces us to try to emigrate, the damage being done to our corals and consequently to the crucial industries of Small Island Developing States - i.e. fisheries and tourism - are evident enough to be of immediate concern. Climate change threatens the very habitats and resources we depend upon for food, so it is imperative that developed countries make progress in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and continue with their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
We are thankful to the FAO and to other multilateral organizations and countries that have over the years assisted us in our agriculture and fisheries programmes. We will appreciate future assistance in line with the policies that we are finalizing.
We aspire to a world which is more just, where globalization brings on trading and financial systems that work for the long term interest of low-income countries and their poor people. We, in the developing world, are constantly being reminded to stop subsidizing our farmers yet, those very countries, continue to subsidize their own farmers. If we do not extend such assistance to our farmers, then surely we will encourage the cycle of poverty within our societies as the products of the developed countries will always be more competitively-lower priced than our produce.
We are, however, firmly committed to achieving a higher level of food security particularly because of our remoteness as an island state. In our efforts to realize this aim we aspire to engage the whole community and this year, for our agricultural show which will take place soon after this Summit, one of the main events in our country's celebration of our National Day, we have adhered to the theme ˇ°Every Home a Gardenˇ± in a collective effort towards achieving the commitments of the Rome Declaration which we signed in 1996.
In ending, allow me to express the hope that food production and availability become not so much tools or weapons for maximizing profits and exercising control over others, but more so the means for bringing about a fairer and more humane world, where there is less suffering and more dignity, where we all - whether we be from North or South, developed or developing - can fulfil our humanity.