Little grant funding actually reaches farmers – Greene
October 23, 2012
Little grant funding actually reaches farmers – Greene

Caribbean governments’ use of agricultural lands for tourism and other sectors — like the Buccament Bay Resort and the prison at Belle Isle — “is an indication of lack of foresight of government”.{{more}}

But Jethro Greene, chief coordinator of Caribbean Farmers Network (CAFAN), says that even with the limitations of the nation’s topography, Vincentian farmers have responded well.

Greene, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT in Antigua on October 13, spoke of Vincentians’ indigenous climate smart methods — like planting dasheen in holes along sloping lands — that reduce land slippage.

“We have a vibrant, young Minister of Agriculture (Saboto Caesar) who is a lawyer, but who came from a farm family, who has been showing a wide interest in promoting agriculture,” he said, on the sidelines of a media science workshop for regional journalists.

“So, that is the kind of leadership, innovation we are looking for — having somebody championing the cause of agriculture,” Greene told SEARCHLIGHT.

Greene said regional governments must pay up monies owed to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

“… research and development is going to be central if we are going to move forward,” he said.

He further told SEARCHLIGHT that sustained marketing, not financing, is the major challenge farmers face.

“I have gone over the region. I have seen people being told to produce for market. And when the product comes, they are being told that [product] is no longer in demand,” he said.

Greene said there needs to be a system “that can guarantee, as best as humanly possible, these markets”.

He used dasheen production in St Vincent as an example.

“We didn’t have the financing to go into doing dasheen production, but it was the market that drove the production higher. And we have seen example of that.”

Greene further spoke out against the use of grant funding for agriculture across the region.

“When funding comes in, it stays at a macro level. Ask the EU how much of their money goes back. Ask how much time when this funding comes, the bureaucracy in the civil service hardly has any money reaching down to farmers. By the time they are done paying staff, nothing reach down to the farmers,” he further told SEARCHLIGHT.

Greene said that in some countries, when funding arrives, politicians “create” farmers and legitimate farmers do not benefit.

“… I have gone to a lot of countries where if money comes in, all of a sudden your partner is a farmer to get some money,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

Asked if that is the case in SVG, Greene said:

“I am not naming any particular country. … I am talking as a leader of a Caribbean movement.

“… But what I am saying, right now in St Vincent, there is a more cooperative attitude to agriculture. I can vouch for now, I can’t vouch for then,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.