Enough talking – it’s time for action.
It is a well-known fact that we in Grenada, for far too long have failed to recognise the tremendous potential of the Agricultural Industry on our lives.
We have concentrated almost exclusively on export crops Nutmeg, Cocoa and Bananas. We have mouthed time and again about doing something with our fruits and vegetables, but sadly, that is only old talk.
The growing global food crises must awaken us to the concern voiced by the United Nations General Secretary, that most small developing states (such as Grenada) will fall deeper into poverty which will have social and security implications.
We also note that as food prices climb to dizzying heights only a minority of farmers will benefit. Many of us are now food buyers who make ends meet by working off the farm and suffer along with the urban poor and landless when food price rises.
The time has come, it may probably already past, that we must take steps to feed ourselves. We are blessed with fertile soil and relatively large tracts of fruitful lands that remain uncultivated. Most of these lands are however government owned. With a young population that equates agricultural work with the lowest stratum of society still the situation remain hopeless.
The global food crisis is worsening and not likely to disappear overnight. It is therefore imperative that we take urgent, decisive and prudent steps to set in motion policies that would minimise the wrath to come and put on the path to sustained developments in the industry.
We must let down our buckets where we are; utilise what we have, increase the current level of productivity, and most of all, educate our people to the fact that those who till the soil are no lower in the social scale than the rest of us. On the contrary they are the blessed of the earth.
THE WAY FORWARD
The way forward, all seems to agree calls for the following:
(a) An intensive programme to boost the use of local produce,
(b) Increased productivity through:
(i) Improved methods of cultivation
(ii) Bringing unused arable lands into production
(iii) Easy access to planting materials
(iv) Crop protection
(c) Distribution of arable government owned lands to young interested farmers.
(d) Nation-wide training for young farmers: The courses of training must be crop specific and time to merge with the seasonal nature of crop production.
(e) Scientific approach to agriculture: The St. George’s University should be encouraged to establish an Agricultural Faculty to train local farmers to the Diploma level.
(f) Food Preservation: Young men and women to be trained in methods of preservation to take care of surplus that will be available and for which there will be a demand during the off season.
Year after year we talk developing an egro-segment to the agricultural industry. Unfortunately it has remained just that. We continue to see our mangoes, soursop, breadnuts, grapefruit and orange even the peel of those fruits and many more, go to waste. Jams, jellies and fruit juices that could bring us reasonable earnings remain untapped.
We have not tried to take advantage of the craze for herbals teas in today’s global market. We boast of being the ‘Spice Island’ of the west, but our fame as such is limited to shipping out nutmeg and cocoa to foreign countries. Cinnamon, Saput (phonetic spelling), Cloves, Cola nuts etc. we do nothing with.
We need to explore to what uses some of our waste products can be put e.g. nutmeg shell can be used as a source of fuel instead of charcoal.
PLAYERS IN THE GAME:
It is obvious that to resuscitate agriculture in Grenada, and to make it profitable to pursue; is to elevate it from the misguided social classification, and to apply a new and scientific method of production. All of us should be players in the game.
We would need:
(a) Agricultural extension field officers with true knowledge of agriculture.
(b) The Bureau of Standards
(c) Quality Control Inspectors
(d) Marketing Consultants
(e) Health Officers
(f) National Organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Association, Restaurants, Credit Unions, Clubs and Other NGO’s.
We need their input to place our Spice Island on the world as Moth Green saw it for the Cocoa Industry.