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Hurting ourselves

We are reasonably sure there is no sane person who would expect to successfully argue that the vast majority of Barbadians are not going through “hard times” right now — regardless of how you choose to define hard times.

And there is no doubt, as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is so fond of reminding us, a large part of the issue has to do with the international economy. If those who would be tourists can’t find the money to make the trip, then our hotels are empty and the trickle down effect does more than trickle to the other sectors.

When serious drought retards grain production in the mid-western portion of the United States and the grain traders start to speculate we see the impact in our near-empty trollies and baskets when we visit the supermarkets.

But when all is said and done, we are very often our own worst enemy. At the governmental/administrative level we let partisan motives influence how we deal with ideas, creating an atmosphere that not only fails to inspire, but kills the enthusiasm of those who were already inspired.

At the personal/household level we face excruciating belt-tightening, but behave as though it’s business as usual. We will not even plant a head of lettuce or a sprig of thyme or marjoram and make no effort to curb our appetite for things foreign — food and otherwise.

In just about every sphere of our operations we compound our own problems with our decision making and conduct. Persons with the funds to invest, or the ideas that attract investors, go into business to make money — but should such approaches be devoid of strategic thinking?

If a supermarket or a wholesale buying club can bring in a container load of lettuce or tomatoes for less than it would cost to grow them here, on the face of it, the wise business decision would be to do just that. But if the persons who are the would-be purchasers of these items are the same individuals who would have been employed on the farm had the produce not been imported, who’s going to buy the imported stuff?

Wouldn’t strategic thinking involve at least some discussion on how the operators in one sector, i.e. produce retail, can assist in the development of those of another sector — in this case produce growers. A major part of the Barbadian problem today is that our approaches are fragmented and selfish with thought being given only to today’s profits.

In the end though, it is the level of innovative and inspirational leadership at play that will determine what is the national agenda and how it is pushed. We hold no brief for the proprietors of Nature’s Produce farm in St. Peter, but we are reasonably sure that if this level of thinking is nurtured and spread, Barbados will pretty soon return to a position of leadership.

We continue to allow a significant portion of one-fifth of our island, the Scotland District, which is ideal for a number of specialised areas of farming, to remain idle, while we import products that with the right incentives can be grown right here.

The gullies, ponds, streams, dams of the Scotland District constitute the perfect foundation for aqua farming; the slopes — as has already been proven by the Soil Conservation Unit — are perfect for a variety of fruits and vegetables; and as has been demonstrated at Greenland, Seniors and Cambridge/Bissex Plantations animal husbandry can flourish.

What are we waiting for? A catastrophic drought in the US that leaves us on the brink of starvation because we can’t afford to purchase what’s available?

Yes Mr Prime Minister, what happens elsewhere has contributed in no small measure to our challenges; but are we doing enough to help ourselves with what we have?

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