Barbados’ farming community has every right to be angry at society’s almost hands-off response to their concerns about praedial larceny.
Considering all of the obstacles those in agriculture face, among them adverse weather conditions, increased operational costs, competition from housing, it is easy to understand the frustration and disappointment of those who reap but often do not have the opportunity to reap because crooks beat them to it.
And then there are the constant promises by successive governments of harsher penalties against crop thieves, and pledges to take the issue more seriously, statements which by now local farmers are probably themselves not taking seriously anymore.
This much was clear at the latest public forum for these food producers, held on Wednesday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Based on the reported comments of some of the farmers present, it appears a number of them thought it was just another talk shop.
But one of the things that caught our attention, and about which we would caution against is what appeared to be a call by outspoken farmer Vincent Layne for “legislation” to ensure farmers “can even get guns too”.
“We need to stop with all this fancy talk and deal with the issue… The issue is that we want legislation so that we can even get guns too. We got white little children in this country walking ’bout with guns down pun their foot strap on and black people we cannot get firearms,” Layne told the well attended forum.
“It hurts when you borrow money … and theft happens, so you have to find a way and means to protect yourself. There must be some law if a farmer kill a man on his place. I am supposed to be a bone fide Holy Ghost Christian, if I kill a man on the farm I serve the same God that give David six rocks to kill Goliath.
“I am not saying that we should go about killing people…, but I am saying if you catch a man on the farm, you don’t ask him what he is doing… You the people in the Ministry of Agriculture need to talk to a few who are serious to talk to the law makers to say what we want.”
Strong and provocative words indeed, but is this the solution? We say definitely not.
As it stands in Barbados there is nothing preventing law abiding farmers, like other individuals, from applying to the Royal Barbados Police Force for a firearm licence. And we are aware that there are indeed local farmers who are gun licence holders, and have been for some time.
Based on the absence of police reports over the years of incidents involving farmers, guns and other citizens one could safely conclude that these agriculturalists have been responsible license holders.
We therefore humbly suggest to Layne and others who might be thinking like him that there is no reason for any special laws, giving special licenses and or special protection to farmers, simply because they are under major threat from crop thieves. It is also our view that this is not the solution to solving the problem.
The fact that in the past thieves have stolen crops from Her Majesty’s Prison of all places, in addition to the recent theft on Ministry of Agriculture land should suggest to all concern that the perpetrators of this crime have no limits. What is required, and has been for some time, is a holistic approach to solving praedial larceny, one involving agricultural administrators, law enforcers, the farmers themselves, and ordinary citizens.
We know it’s a solution that sounds all too familiar, but one about which we must stop talking about and start acting on. Based on how some in the farming community are increasingly up in arms about the issue we have to choice.
Anarchy is not an option we can afford.