A new approach to agriculture

In Barbados, the ministerial role stands out as one where the inability to lead and manage democratic change presents. As persons from the established professions monopolize state power, the influence of community organizers seems to be waning. Nevertheless, perhaps, the announcement of the demise of the grassroots politician is premature.

After five decades of revolving DLP/BLP administrations, now more than ever, the new times ahead of us will require new approaches, new perspectives, and new parties. The United Progressive Party is committed to community-based participatory planning as a practical and easy-to-use planning tool to harmonize the efforts of  community organizations, government departments, and cooperating partners.

Rural agriculture is one such area that would benefit from community-driven integrated development with regard to what is produced, price regulation, and in particular how farming is organized. Small-scale farmers produce food for 70 per cent of the global population. Yet, they are some of the world’s poorest and most food insecure people. Barbados is no exception. Alternatives to conventional farming should be embraced to improve subsistence farmers’ yields and to ensure adequate food production for the population.

Existing ‘land for the landless’ programmes are not particularly successful because in part they are woefully under-subscribed. One of the major challenges are the distances farmers must travel to reach the plots of land. This results in a situation where a farmer from Christ Church may be allocated a portion of land in St Lucy. The distances involved raise a number of issues including the ever-present concerns about praedial larceny. This means that currently, farming is dominated by large scale producers who can live close to their crops while the more vulnerable sections of society are increasingly alienated from farming.

For these reasons, the United Progressive Party has evaluated alternative approaches to effectively implementing creative, efficient, and sustainable solutions. A shift to community-based farming could be the solution to this conundrum. In this model, the farmers can erect basic accommodations on or near their farmland rather that have to traverse the length of the island daily to tend their crops. The new-look agriculture industry would feature agriculture village co-operatives which are in practice productive settlements.

It offers opportunities for new benchmarks in agricultural value chains, modern technology use in cultivation and post-harvest management, food nutrition and heritage tourism. It may as yet provide the only practical impetus represented post 1966, capable of motivating the unemployed, disengaged and retired to participate in food sovereignty recovery. It is about the whole community, including leaders and elites, helping the most vulnerable and the hungry, including through awareness and planning work that ultimately benefits all.

This simple mechanism can lay the foundation for a new social and structural policy for agriculture with the following productive benefits:

. actualize citizens whose existence came without a stake in the state;

. promote activities of wealth formation at the household and community level;

. engage agriculture expansion through cooperative organizing as the basis of rural development and community empowerment;

. ties to the land are not determined by political favour, private property rights or non-voluntary means of acquiring resources;

. adaptable network communications, support and interactions around defined structured groups (family, religious, community, blocks, freed former inmates, migrants);

. access by the poor to micro credit (money, food, cloths, work, child care services);

. affordable housing and education solutions to farm starters;

. provision of mutual aid not served by formal institutions;

. spontaneity to emergent needs (marriages, births, sickness, death, immigration, school, and eviction matters);

. workers insurance security against monetary and fiscal volatility .

Through community-based initiatives, Barbadians within communities are placed in the driver’s seat of planning, while contributing to their own resilience-building efforts and development. This can be used as a framework to redefine the role of agriculture, and adopt new models needed in the face of current resource constraints.

 

Source: (Contact: Hermon Lowe, candidate for St Michael West Central. Email: voteupp@uppbarbados.org; website: www.uppbarbados.org)

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