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Sugar is our heritage

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Sugar is our heritage

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PROBLEMS FACING the sugar industry have left a bitter taste in some Barbadian mouths.

This year’s harvest started late and the yields of sugar cane and sugar are expected to be among the lowest on record. Private growers have not hidden the fact that they are unhappy about the absence of “clarity” from Government on the sector’s future – demonstrated by Sagicor’s concern about the operations of Barbados Farms Limited.

Government itself has also faced problems related to the industry, including finding finance to enable sugar cane cultivation this year, and the implementation of its new one-factory option. Government officials have pointed out that they inherited many of these challenges.

In the midst of all of this, Barbados has been on a mission behind the scenes trying to get an official acknowledgement of the importance of the industry to the island and the world. On February 12 last year, the Barbados National Commission for UNESCO submitted a proposal for The Industrial Heritage of Barbados: The Story of Sugar And Rum to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Information seen by BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY showed that Government is pushing for St Nicholas Abbey, St Peter, Morgan Lewis Windmill, St Andrew, Codrington College, St John, Newton Burial Ground, Christ Church and Mount Gay Distilleries, St Lucy to be officially recognised as World Heritage Sites in the context of Barbados’ long-standing reputation as a leading sugar and rum producer.

Morgan Lewis Windmill


The information said these sites represented “complex inter-relationships of land, labour and capital, as well as the continuation and adaptation of long-standing cultural traditions, specific to sugar plantation development”.

Their selection also “illustrates the story of patronage, control and protection of this highly valued sugar growing area, which contributed substantially to the economic development of Barbados and the British empire, playing a significant role in the history of the geo-cultural region of the Caribbean”.

“St. Nicholas Abbey, Morgan Lewis Windmill, Codrington College, and Mount Gay have been identified as sites or buildings of national significance in a National Registry of heritage sites compiled by the Caribbean Conservation Association in June 1983 and approved and endorsed by the Government of Barbados.”

“The list is utilised by the Town and Country Planning Department to monitor the preservation of national heritage sites whenever application is made for the development of any of the listed properties. Newton Enslaved Burial Ground is associated with Newton Plantation, which also forms part of this national list.

“All sites reside in private ownership, and all site managers are committed to their preservation. All sites were endorsed as national heritage of major significance on the decision of Cabinet in 2002, accepting the recommendations of the Barbados World Heritage Task Force.”

Barbados also pointed out that while “the majority of properties that have already been identified as significant to this nomination are privately owned”, several of them “fall within the Barbados National Park which has a legislative framework that provides the primary policies required for the management and operations of the nominated area”.

The World Heritage Committee was also told that the locations selected were of “outstanding universal value” since they “are an outstanding example of a cultural landscape shaped by Europeans and Africans in the Atlantic World”.

“With its sugar cane fields, plantation complexes, mill infrastructure and factories, nestling on the slopes and in the valleys/gullies of the island, The Industrial Heritage Of Barbados: The Story Of Sugar And Rum illustrate the impact of human settlement, slave labour and agricultural activities, and more specifically the production of Caribbean sugar and rum, from the mid-17th century on the natural landscape,” Barbados submitted.