EDITORIAL: Encourage, not dissuade, our farmers
The life of a farmer can be a harsh one, given the challenges faced on a daily basis. It is in many ways a labour of love and ought not to be made more difficult by the callous actions of people not willing to take the risks associated with either livestock rearing or food crop production.
The case of livestock farmer Stephen Williams and the horrors he has been facing with stray dogs on top of livestock theft is a story of determination in difficult circumstances. Why should a man toil in sun and rain, Sunday to Saturday, only to see his efforts go in vain?
That people would abandon their dogs across the countryside only to create headaches for other people highlights the inhumane nature of many of these people who profess to love their pets. Dogs left to fend for themselves in the wild will do the natural thing and hunt for food wherever it can be found. Sheep, goats, ducks and calves are prime targets. Fortunately, the farmers can sometimes strike back.
The same approach is not so easy in dealing with livestock and food crop thieves, who remain brazen in their actions, knowing that they will either get away totally with their crime or face little more than a reprimand if caught. Yet, stealing a farmer’s produce or animals is no less a crime than stealing from the Crown, committing fraud at a commercial bank or carrying away goods from a hotel. These are, however, dealt with the full force of the law.
Given the apparent leniency with which many of the crimes against the farmers appear to be treated, it is generally believed that some criminals now steal both livestock and food crops to supply their businesses. The talk across Barbados today is of a farmer who was able to trace his stolen pigs to a particular location, only to be offered a price to stay the matter from prosecution. It was, however, prosecuted and the farmer was left in total amazement by the level of punishment.
Many of our farmers do not have insurance cover against losses caused by wild dogs or thieves. They are also in a business impacted by sharp price movements, high levels of spoilage and a range of other vagaries which all tend to work against them. But farmers are also business people toiling daily for a fair return on their labour and investment.
They contribute by providing employment, saving and earning foreign exchange, ensuring the island has a food security net, and offering a range of food, thereby helping in the fight against a range of diseases.
Every effort should be made to encourage, not dissuade, our farmers in their valiant contribution to this island’s development. They have sufficient to worry about in a fiercely competitive environment which throws up new challenges every day. Our farmers deserve our total support.