NI mayor wants islands to be breadbasket of CNMI
Northern Islands Mayor Jerome K. Aldan wants to transform his home islands—which he affectionately calls Gani—into the breadbasket of the Commonwealth.
One way of developing the islands is by reviving its agriculture industry, said Aldan as one the guest speakers in yesterday’s Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
In the past the Northern Islands produced sugar for the whole of the Marianas and was where the Micronesia-wide copra industry began.
“We plan to move into agricultural production and value-added processes such as, for example, converting sugar cane to sugar and using the byproducts for alternative energy-related synthesis, considering that the Northern Islands don’t even have power generation,” he said.
Aldan said his office is also partnering with the Northern Marianas College- Cooperative Research, Extension and Education Service and it has provided a historical overview of farming in the Northern Islands during the Spanish, German, Japanese, and U.S. eras.
“The plan lists fruits and vegetables tested to be good for production there. Sugarcane, sweet potato, watermelon, pineapple, and cotton production were staples during the Japanese era, while coconut for copra was during the German period,” he said.
The copra industry was so successful that it became a regional development engine for the United Micronesia Development Association, the largest non-government development group in Micronesia. UMDA once owned Hotel Nikko Saipan, was a major stockholder in Continental Air Micronesia, and purchased and then sold the Laolao Bay Golf Resort.
However, Aldan said, before he can realize the revival of the Northern Islands’ agriculture industry he would first need to resettle the islands.
“I am working closely with the Department of Public Lands, on the homestead projects in the Northern Islands,” he said.
He also volunteered that DPL’s survey of village and agricultural homeasteads in the Northern Islands has been postponed twice and is now set for March 2017.
“I am still optimistic that the surveys would be completed this year. I just need to continue waking up folks. People in Gani Islands need this program implemented. Why? They need to feel a keen sense of ownership and what other way of doing it is to give them the land they occupied for centuries just as what was given to the folks from here [Saipan], Rota, and Tinian. We anticipate the distribution of homesteads in Gani Islands this year,” he said.