The youth should join the agricultural sector so that the country can become self-sufficient in food crops and with view to encouraging them, Government is providing several incentives so that they develop an interest in the agricultural sector thus contributing to its growth, said the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun.

He was speaking, yesterday, at Carreau Esnouf, Plaine Magnien at the handing over ceremony of small scale drip irrigation system, an initiative of the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI), . TheMinister of Housing and Lands, Mr Purmanund Jhugroo and the Chief Whip, Mr Mahendranuth Sharma Hurreeram were also present at the event.

Minister Mahen Seeruttun underlined that some 10 planters across the island will benefit from the Gravity-Fed Drip Irrigation System which will cover an area of about 2000m2. The system, he said, forms part of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-RAF5079 Project, and has many advantages. It requires no pump and is energy-saving unlike the pressurised drip irrigation system which requires an electric or petrol driven pump, he said. Other benefits are namely, low pressure and low discharge of water, no wastage of water, direct flow of water to the root zone, improved crop yield and quality, low application of fertilisers through fertigation, and lower labour cost, he added.

Furthermore, the Minister reiterated Government's commitment to give a new dynamism to the agricultural sector and delved on the measures that have been implemented to tackle the challenges faced by the sector, namely the Use of Pesticides Bill, provision of additional funds for grants to planters and various training programmes.

The Minister also announced the construction of 100 sheltered farms across the country and added that 50 will be constructed in the year 2019 while the remaining 50 will be set up next year. The purpose is to reduce the rate of imported fruits and vegetables, and to boost local production.

For his part, Minister Jhugroo highlighted that the system aiming to enhance food security and income of vulnerable farmers, was launched in 2014 and has been implemented in some 25 regions across the country on a small scale of 200 m2. He further mentioned that the irrigation system is a great success in several countries including Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, and Zimbabwe. He, therefore, made an appeal to planters to contact FAREI in order to benefit from the system as well as receive training of this new system so that they can in turn install same in their fields.

As for Mr Hurreeram he cautioned on the alarming rate of health issue caused due to the excessive use of pesticides and encouraged planters to adopt the modern techniques of organic farming so as to minimizing the risks on human health and the environment.

Source: Republic of Mauritius