Plantation life not easy
By Carlos Atwell | Fri, September 07, 2012 - 10:13 AM
They work in the sun, digging in the fields, the men and women – mostly women – who can be spotted on the plantations helping to provide Barbados with food.
But who are these people? What are their stories? Street Beat decided to find out.
This week the spotlight is on some of the labourers of Buttal’s plantation in St George, who work in a job which may become obsolete in the future. Doreen Hall said, while it was hard work, it was also rewarding.
“Somebody has to do this; my parents used to do it. The nation has to eat and if we didn’t, who would? Plus, these are the best foods to eat,” she said.
The workers sow and reap potatoes, peas, carrots, yams and sugar cane which Hall said kept you healthy while the work kept you fit. However, she said there were some drawbacks as well.
“The thing is, your skin gets all sorts of colours like your face may be dark while your legs light because of the sun. Also, you have to dress in tights and long socks so the centipedes can’t get you as well as gloves for certain things. Still, it is rewarding when you can see what you plant come to fruition,” she said.
Glenda Best has only been at Buttal’s for three years after working at Hannah’s plantation. She said she had a period of unemployment after working at Hannah’s but knew a manager at Buttal’s, which was how she got the job.
“I like working out here because the workers are very nice even though the work is hard,” she said.
Best said she raised her three children as a plantation worker but would not want them to follow in her footsteps, not that today’s youth were too keen to labour in the sun anyway.
“The young people would never come out and work so I don’t know who will take over when we stop,” she said.
Inez Phillips went from smocking to working at Spencer’s Plantation. From there she found herself at Buttal’s, where she has spent more than ten years working.
“I started picking cotton at Spencer’s, now I plant [produce]. It is honest work and you get to eat some of what you plant,” she said.
Esther Lovell said the work paid the bills and provided transportation, so she did not have to pay the bus. However, Cecilia Holligan said she wished there was shelter for when it rained and toilet facilities.
One worker, who identified herself only as “Miss Simmons”, said the work was getting harder to do as the ground was not as productive and the conditions were not as good as before. She said they worked four days a week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and have been doing that since 1981. She said it was her fellow workers who motivated her to keep going.
“This group gets along very well. We stick together and motivate each other,” she said.
However, she lamented what was to become of plantation labour.
“The young people don’t come into the fields now so when we get old, what will happen?” she said.
Another worker, who identified herself as “Miss G”, said she liked hard work and had done all sorts of other jobs in the past such as restaurant work and cleaning. She said an honest living was best.
“We earn an honest dollar and we know where it comes from, we don’t have to look over our shoulders,” she said.
Street Beat also had a word with undermanager Basil Watson, who was nearby overseeing the work. He said he had seen Buttal’s change hands more than once but his duties and the produce remained the same.
“I come out and supervise and when the manager’s out, I manage the place. Right now, we are reaping yams but we have to decide what we will do in November/December – probably sow carrots as it is too late for sugar cane in this spot right now,” he said.
Watson said he was reasonably happy with the plantation’s output adding: “You got to plant to suit the labour you got.”
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