USM students and researchers.
POND ISLAND--The University of St. Martin (USM) will hold a symposium on Food Security and Agricultural Development in St. Maarten at Axum, on Front Street in Philipsburg on Saturday, May 20.
“As part of the USM Science Café series, the evening promises to engage researchers, students and local food producers with the community-at-large,” USM said in a press release on Wednesday. The symposium is scheduled to begin at 6:00pm on Saturday evening.
Since 2020, during the outbreak of COVID-19, USM has been carrying out research initiatives on Agriculture, Nutrition and Food Security on the island in different capacities.
With this month’s Science Café, the university hopes to share developments from its most recent research venture: “Food Security and Economic Diversity in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten”, a collaborative effort of the University of Curaçao Research Institute, the University of Aruba, and the USM Science Research Institute (SSRI), which is funded by the Dutch Biomedical and Health Research Council ZonMw.
In St. Maarten the project is carried out by Eugène Hoogstad and a team of local researchers and students. The USM research team is collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT), local food producers, and is closely involving the non-governmental organizations, to ensure that stakeholders are actively included in all phases of the research, to produce results that have practical value, can be implemented, and create positive change.
“We speak of Food Security when everyone, always, has access to affordable, sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. Extreme dependence on import for food leaves St. Maarten vulnerable to external shocks as we experienced with the current increase in cost of living and during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hoogstad stated.
“This is a major risk to food security but also provides us with the opportunity to rethink our economic and food system strategies. One such way is the development of local food production systems, as this has the potential to both improve food security and drive economic diversification,” he continued.
Among some of the local farmers expected to attend the Saturday evening symposium are Josiah Halley and Denicio Wyatte; both will share their experiences and challenges and voice their personal opinions on the future of agriculture on the island.
In June, the USM research team and its partners will start various data collecting efforts which include taking surveys within the community and businesses and organizing focus group meetings with stakeholders. Preliminary results of the project are expected after the summer.
Ultimately the project seeks to contribute to developing a realistic roadmap for policy makers, farmers, and stakeholders in addressing pressing challenges related to food security and developing a sustainable local food production sector on the island.
USM Science Café is a monthly collaboration between the local university and Axum, bringing the arts and sciences to the community. Axum is a cultural space located at Front St. in downtown Philipsburg and directed by Ras Mosera.
For more information see the University of St. Martin’s website: www.usm.sx.