EDITOR: Although we are blessed with rich resources, our production is low due to poor management and insecurity. Having described our country as “a pile of rocks with fertile soil on it”, our leaders seem impotent in their capacity to develop it.
Saying that, “agriculture was a thing of the past,” and “vowing to make the country ungovernable,” were not helpful.
Before undertaking any project, feasibility studies are usually done to determine the viability of the project and its environmental impact. A proper geological survey would have provided us with the information of where we can find suitable stone for quarrying. This would have prevented us from condemning the farms on the rich volcanic soil of the Richmond Quarry.
In our haste to exploit our “pile of rocks,” in the false hope of an “orgasm,” have we killed the agricultural goose that laid the golden egg? Sudden wealth brings corruption and many negative consequences with it. In our policy and practice we seem to be dropping the bone and going after the shadow. Why have we abandoned the glory days of agriculture? Our history shows that at certain periods of time we had the expertise and were good at producing cotton, sugarcane, bananas, ground provisions, vegetables, carrots, fruits, coconuts, arrowroot and cassava.
Our policy of division and subtraction is not serving us well. We must learn to add to and multiply what we have. The role of the Education Revolution should have been to help us to do what we do better and learn new avenues of development.
Who has led us to this place where our economy is failing, crime is high, unemployment is skyrocketing, and illiteracy rules the day?
We have made no greater mistake than moving away from agriculture. It allows us to have food security, to feed ourselves and export the excess to feed the world. There is the capacity to employ everyone. Crime would be greatly reduced because many of our young people would be productively occupied.
Our land use policy and practice indicate the direction in which we are heading. We need to preserve our agricultural lands and restrict the construction of buildings to the “pile of rocks.”
We do not have to condemn our farming in favour of tourism and the service industry. We can have both if we carefully plan it that way. Having a tractor available at reasonable cost to plow the lands would take some of the difficult tasks out of farming and make it more attractive to young people. This is what should have been done in the recent “food insecurity” project to make it sustainable. Too much of our pension funds were squandered in the building of hotels. A feasibility study should have been done where investment is made in a small farm and small hotel simultaneously.
Since our roads are bad and transportation is costly, Agricultural Extension Officers should live and work in each community to provide ready advice to our farmers that would allow increased production. The flow of information is also important. We need to know what the market requires, what our weather patterns and soil can sustain, and when is the optimum time to plant and harvest.
Every official initiative in agriculture seems to have flopped. Arrowroot is not even on the shop shelf. Where can we find farine factory, coconut water bottling plant, export market for marijuana, European market for bananas, modern fishing trawler hotel serving local farming cuisine, farm supplying major market share of local chicken and eggs?
We must make the changes that are needed to experience our long overdue economic take off.
Anthony G. Stewart, PhD