Poor agriculture
Round Table with Oscar
September 3, 2013

Poor agriculture

We do not take tourism for granted. We wine and dine our visitors, we dress up our festivals to make them appeal to visitors, we invest in a belly tightening, nation starving airport, we build hotels, we promote our destination on international channels, we…

We do not take our financial system for granted. We keep our ECCU/ECCB infrastructure on the ball. We watch our money in the banks, credit unions, our BLA and we set up an FSA- Financial Services Authority, NIS and other agencies to make money work for us.{{more}}

We do not take our nation’s security for granted. We guard our passports carefully, we investigate our murders, we train and retrain our police, coastguard, immigration, customs, and health personnel. We invest in a credible court system. We…

We do take agriculture for granted. We have no food security advisor, no promotion campaigns, no regular high-profile regional assessments and public discussion, no festivals, no passing out parades, no protection of agricultural land from abuse, no newspaper reports of court cases for larceny of farmers’ produce, no financing infrastructure for agriculture, no substantial research and development to add more value to our products, no passing of the agricultural torch to the next generation!

Poor agriculture. Who cares? We openly and quickly bad mouth our agriculture and our farming community. In party politics, we count them as votes, non-active citizens. We protect our children from contact with and contamination by farmers, and yet thousands of men and women and youth on the land, toil heartily, hopefully, intelligently, day and night. They are the reason why agriculture can be repaired, can be transformed, will be made new. They constitute a foundation for a movement to repair SVG. Our agriculture can be a leading aspect of our reparations process with persons at the centre of it.

Agricultural Reparations

When the British visitors-invaders watched the lands on the Windward side of St Vincent, 350 years ago, they dribbled with greed “we must have this land; it is too good for those people there”. They were talking about conquering the Kalinago Garifuna territory and removing thousands of the people. In their hearts, our foreparents said “not one inch, not one grain ah our dirt for them”. That was the resolve that ended up with the massacre of our early citizens and the bringing to fullness of the estate-plantation system and the trade in and enslavement of Africans here. I estimate that for 20,000 slaves to have been in our population in 1834, then 100,000 Africans must have been captured, killed, drowned, brought to and raised in SVG during the period. They must be counted. To speak of reparations in relation to agriculture is therefore to deal with the recovery of our land. Clive Bishop speaks of “healing” the land. We must deal also with the reconstitution of our people, recreating Vincentian humanity, and we must more particularly deal with what goods we produce, how we process and use and brand them, and where we place them among the people in the world. It is matters like these that Dr O’ Garro raised on Tuesday last, when he spoke about the prospects for our nation’s agriculture. He is a believer in our agriculture and he has roots in our mountain lands down Leeward, and he is offering to our farming people an agriculture vision that is both scientific and wholesome. Agriculture can be redeemed; farmers can be revolutionaries who lead the second emancipation struggle for a new Caribbean – the mental, material and relational emancipation.

From where I sat in the O’Garro lecture, he was not asking the government or the “state” to sit in the driver’s seat as we repair our agriculture. He put forward a process, a set of steps to heal the land, dignify the working people, raise the value of our produce, check out the kind of resources we need, and locate the democratic factor in the agriculture transformation. Each of these steps calls for more exploration and I got the impression that Dr O Garro has much more to say on these matters. Did I not hear him repeatedly say “work has been going on for some time” on this and that idea that he presented. He did not talk about “Reparations: that was Hilary Beckles cause, but to me he was proposing a reparations programme. When Dr O’Garro pointed out that persons who own arable land are a fairly broad section of the community, and are often challenged– or poorer–section of our people, he was assuring us that wealth from agriculture would not “trickle down” to the poor, it would raise the poor.