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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Show loyalty all year

Dr Frances Chandler

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Show loyalty all year

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Well, Independence time is here again and suddenly we remember loyalty to country and its traditions. But if Independence is to mean more than just self-governance or more accurately, “doing as we please until we run into trouble”, we must “work together for the good of our land” throughout the year. Sadly, our actions don’t often match the words of our Motto, Pledge or National Anthem which we so proudly espouse at Independence. 

Nowadays I often find it difficult to recognise “my Barbados”. We’ve become a nation of greed, materialism, great expectations without great effort, facts reinforced by Catholic Bishop Jason Gordon, who has challenged Barbadians to return to traditional values and stop hankering after a ‘Tinseltown’ – or Hollywood – lifestyle that emphasises individualism and wealth acquisition.

“We’ve given up our value system and we’ve gone to live in Tinseltown, trying to imitate Miami and other cities and trying to be First World in a way that doesn’t count for who we are as human beings. We are better than this. We are much better than this.”

I agree wholeheartedly but it will take a major effort to turn back the clock. I agree too with Sherwyn Walters that when we show children Bajan artefacts, the focus should be on what those artefacts represent in the realm of character qualities – resourcefulness, creativity, problem-solving, excellent examples of “make do” of import (or purchase) substitution wrought by ordinary people.

I’ve constantly advocated a greater effort at import substitution and food independence, a message which more often than not falls on deaf ears. We sign on to agreements which are detrimental to us and while we commend lofty statements like that made by the then Minister of Foreign Trade Christopher Sinckler to the World Trade Organisation in 2008 that “while Barbados remains committed to meeting its obligations to the World Trade Organisation, the country will nonetheless retain the right to act in the best interest of its people, whenever and wherever these commitments conflict with national development priorities”, they must be followed through with the necessary actions if we’re to make real progress.

I fail to see how the carte blanche duty-free concessions granted to Sandals could encourage use of local products, but time will tell. The memorandum of understanding between tourism and agriculture seems to have finally been signed, but the proof of the pudding is in the orders received. Farmers have long complained that they donate fresh produce for such events as the Food & Wine And Rum Festival and its forerunners, but they seldom result in substantial or consistent orders. True, farmers are sometimes at fault for their poor planning and insufficient attention to quality, but that has significantly improved with improved technology.

I was pleasantly surprised by a recent advertisement requesting supplies of fresh local produce. I doubt I’ve ever seen such an advertisement before. Another encouraging ad is “Tighten your budget without tightening your belt . . . by sourcing fresh local produce. The Beach House cuts costs and supports our fishermen and farmers . . . .”

This should put paid to popular claims that local food is too expensive. My experience of 45 years in agriculture is that many local items are cheaper than imported – with added benefits of freshness, nutritive value and safety. Of course, prices could be further reduced if the country would band together in conquering the crop and livestock theft epidemic.

The recent NIFCA culinary exhibition definitely showed “what Bajans can do”. The fact that children at primary level are being taught agro-processing gives us hope. They produced innovative products like mauby, passion fruit, rum and cherry sugar cakes as well as various breadfruit, cassava and sweet potato dishes. Let’s make sure that this talent is taken to a higher level.

Let’s nurture the true Bajan spirit, not only in November but all year.

Happy Independence!

Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]