FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Our worst enemy
We’ve heard that “our future is in our hands!” I agree, and hope that Government will stop blaming external forces and clean up its own backyard. Civil society must also clean up its act, and be constructive and productive rather than destructive.
When I started to write this column, my first topic was Why Shoot Ourselves In The Foot? One year later many of us are still doing just that. Instead of supporting Barbados’ return to economic stability they continue their senseless actions that “kill the geese that lay the golden eggs”.
We have all but killed agriculture by constantly stealing farmers’ produce and consistently burning sugar cane, already under pressure from excessively dry conditions.
But the burning also spreads to abandoned land, producing continuous smoke, closing schools, aggravating health problems and putting pressure on an already beleaguered health system.
It’s obvious the Scotland District is particularly vulnerable to erosion and that vegetation is essential to keep it stable. Yet every year, these hills are robbed of vegetation by uncontrollable fires. This year, the fires have undermined the efforts of the Future Centre Trust by damaging the fruitscape in the Morgan Lewis area. Not to mention the water wasted in extinguishing these senseless fires.
This wilful destruction must stop. Apart from the natural environment, have you noticed the number of road signs, street lights and other public property constantly being destroyed through recklessness?
We haven’t yet grasped the fact that we must support our own farmers and manufacturers. Sir Courtney Blackman has called for more food production, but what’s the use of producing if your fellow Barbadian prefers to buy from overseas, using scarce foreign exchange?
The reported granting of permission by the Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation (BADMC) to a restaurant to import the equivalent of five years’ requirement of chicken wings while there are in fact wings available locally is, in my view, nothing short of abominable and that it was allegedly done without consultation is unbelievable. The BADMC’s public statement does nothing to change my view. Perhaps they should remember that their mandate is to develop agriculture, not destroy it.
Although Barbados is fast becoming a “secret service” society, at least one newspaper published the name of the restaurant so that those of us with a conscience can take our business elsewhere, but of course all the suspected “behind the scenes” activities will never be publicised.
The fact is that the limited importation of chicken wings (and backs and necks in days gone by) by the marketing corporation (not by private individuals) was intended to assist with the protein needs of the poorest people in society. But they’ve now become a delicacy, with increasing demand leading to greed and perceived corruption with consequent damage to our poultry industry. Furthermore, wings are not particularly nutritious, so why encourage their widespread use?
Seeing that farmers can’t rely on the loyalty of Barbadians, perhaps they should develop integrated agri-businesses where they’re involved from the inputs through production of markets, and get in the supermarket, restaurant and hotel business, promoting “fresh and healthy, free from hormones, etc.” to their customers. A hotel which could boast of its own farm would be at a distinct advantage.
Having brought agriculture to its knees, we’re now trying to kill tourism. I agree with entrepreneur Kim Medford: “Tourism is Barbados’ business, but some Barbadians’ attitude to visitors suggests they don’t understand their part.” She was referring to an incident in which a foreign student renting her accommodation was told if she didn’t like the noise in the district she should “go back where you come from”. Then we read where relatives visiting an international student were attacked.
That behaviour will certainly undermine the plans of the university, which has recognised the need to build on foreign student programmes to be sustainable without the level of Government support it had previously. But will this programme continue if we can’t guarantee the safety and comfort of students and their relatives?
Finally, it’s encouraging to see that Minister Inniss is consulting local businessmen. Perhaps he can try to steer them away from constructing more malls, which just consume foreign exchange, to a path of supporting local and producing products to earn said foreign exchange.
Let’s work together for the good of our land!
Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator.