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HOME GROWN: A better way to help farmers

Suzanne Griffith

HOME GROWN: A better way to help farmers

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Like most Barbadians, I listened with great interest as Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler made the presentation of the Budget to the nation on Monday.
There are of course those elements of the Budget that will affect each and every one of us; there were however two points of particular interest to me from an agricultural and environmental standpoint. Regardless of your particular political affiliation they are points worth careful consideration.
Minister Sinckler highlighted the plight of our farmers, and announced that effective January 1, that they would receive a preferential water rate, the same rate applied to the manufacturing sector.
The caveats associated with this benefit were one, that the irrigation supplies be separately metered, and two, that a tensimeter be installed to monitor the efficiency of the system’s distribution. While there is no debate that our agricultural sector needs every bit of assistance and support it can get, there has to be a better way.
Without a doubt Barbados is a water scarce country. Conservation and water harvesting are a must. Reduced rates are merely a crutch that breeds complacency. What about a creative solution that leads to a change in the irrigation habits and practices of our farmers, a sustainable solution for the future?
Consider this: the preferential rate could be given to farmers that alter their consumption to 90 per cent BWA supplied water and ten per cent harvested rain water for the first year. The second year the BWA consumption would reduce to 80 per cent, and the harvested rainwater to 20 per cent, and so on. A sliding scale such as this, or similar, would give farmers the opportunity to establish rainwater harvesting systems over time, while still receiving the benefit, and reward, of the preferential rate. In a perfect world, a farm could be entirely self-sustaining when it comes to water requirements for irrigation, in nine years. Plain and simple, give the preferential treatment to those farmers who are actively moving toward self-sustenance.
The second point of interest in the presentation of the Budget was the proposal to eliminate the two percent Environmental Levy.
With the elimination of the revenue generated by the levy, it begs the question as to where the resources will come from to manage the tremendous amount of waste that is a bi-product of the importation of goods into the island.
Barbados is finite, we all know that, but we cannot continue to move forward without the implementation of programmes such as mandatory recycling, and the composting of organic wastes.
Although the points of the Budget that impact our pocketbook are likely foremost in our minds, it is still important to consider those that affect our environment. There is after all no doubt that our island’s beauty and it’s natural resources are what make it so unique.
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