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It bothers me that for more than a quarter of a century, there has been a slow abandonment of Government agricultural stations spread across many of the rural districts of Barbados.
Services previously offered to local farmers are virtually non-existent.
Years ago, farmers were able to have their plots ploughed and furrowed, and extension officers were available to come on-spot and give practical hands-on advice about the challenges related to crop diseases, soil quality, pesticides, herbicides and a host of other related matters. Information, tips and techniques on poultry and livestock husbandry were also shared.
There is too much long talk about the youth getting involved in agriculture, but where are the facilities and supporting mechanisms to motivate and stimulate more Barbadians towards the production of more food for local consumption, rather than simply bemoan the fact that we have a food import bill involving millions of dollars in foreign exchange expenditure?
Barbados not only needs the large commercial plantation farms, but the small and medium-sized farms of private individuals that would include entrepreneurs of the younger generation.
If I may digress just a bit, where is the 4H? Is it still in existence?
It is therefore necessary that meaningful partnerships between Government and non-governmental organisations be re-established to capitalise and benefit from what a former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development described as the “Green Revolution”.
This revolution of research and development is estimated to have saved billions of people across the globe from the throes of starvation.
It has significantly impacted India to such an extent that one of their leading economist and parliamentarian in the person of Jairam Ramesh made a statement that could have been unpalatable for some and could have also created envy in others.
Jairam Ramesh: “A country that cannot feed itself cannot have self-pride, and in the mid-’60s, 20 per cent of all the wheat produced in America came into India. We were agriculturally a basket case. And 15 years later, 20 years later, we have become an agricultural power. This is the famous Green Revolution.”
We can repeat the same clichés and catchphrases ad nauseam, but if we cannot get to the implementation stage and nothing is being done about the high food import bill, foreign exchange drainage, the unnecessary importation of agricultural products, food security, serving tourists with local cuisine and so on, then as our Trinidadian neighbours say, “yuh only spinning top in mud”.
– MICHAEL RAY