The challenges faced by the people of Petit Martinique

The people of Petit Martinique, one of two dependencies of Grenada, are appealing to the authorities in St. George’s to pay more attention towards the development of the tiny island.

With a population estimated to be about 800 people, the residents engage mainly in boat-building, animal rearing and fishing, and, more recently, small manufacturing for their livelihood.

One of the residents is now engage in producing bluggoe flour, which is becoming a popular food item on the island.

Due to the constraints face by a constant flow of water and the island’s climatic conditions, limited farming is done on Petit Martinique.

The residents depend primarily on rainwater harvesting for their main source of water on the island.

The fire tender, which is primarily used to transport water to households, has been out of service for the past year.

Petit Martinique is still without a secondary school, and for those students who attend the secondary schools on Carriacou, which is two and a half miles away, they have to travel by boat every day to get to school.

President of the Petit Martinique Fishermen Co-operative, Dexter Miller who was a guest on the weekly “Sundays With George Grant” radio programme outlined the economic contribution the fishing industry makes to Grenada which he said is not well publicised.

According to Miller, Petit Martinique is a big player in the fish that is exported to the European Union (EU).

He spoke of Petit Martinique being the only island in the Eastern Caribbean that exports fish to the EU.

The fisherman said the small island is responsible for over 80 percent of the fish exported out of Grenada.

“Even though we are a small island … the contribution that we make to the island’s economic development, it is very high,” he stressed.

Miller said most of the fish caught by the small boats from Petit Martinique are exported to French Martinique and Guadeloupe, while those who engage in long-line fishing have their fish exported from the mainland to North America.

The fisherman said the Martinique trade is not as vibrant as it used to be in the past as most of the fishermen have ventured into the more lucrative long-line fishing, coupled with the fact that the fish stock has depleted over the years due to climate change.

Miller told the host of the programme that although Petit Martinique is very productive in the fishing industry, the government on the mainland spent limited or no money at all in helping to develop the sector and that there is limited infrastructure development.

He said the Petit Martinique Fishermen Co-operative has taken its own initiative to construct a new ice plant to provide the local fishermen with ice.

Miller also made an appeal to government to help provide opportunities to the youth of Petit Martinique.

He said there is a large youthful population on Petit Martinique, and upon completion of their formal education, many of them have nothing to do in a meaningful way.

He said the only option for the young people is to join a fishing brigade or go into diving.

“Fishing is a very good thing, but at least you would like to see them (the young people) enter into other fields,” he said.

Another guest on the programme, Odinga Blair who is the proprietor of “The Millennium Connection” which is one of the Guest Houses on the island, addressed the challenges the people of Petit Martinique face in obtaining basic amenities.

Pointing out that there is no bank on the island, Blair said the residents have to journey to nearby Carriacou to conduct banking business and this has to be done at a cost.

“If we are going to put money in the bank, by the time we get to Carriacou, half of that money is already spent on just getting there,” she explained.

Another issue raised by the Guest House Operator is the health care as basic medication is not available at the clinic serving the islanders.

She said in most instances, they have to send their prescriptions to Carriacou to be filled due to the lack of medication on the island and this again is done at a cost.

“Maybe the cost of getting the medication to Petit Martinique might be more than the medication itself,” she remarked.

Blair stressed that since Petit Martinique is one of the islands making up the State of Grenada, the residents should also enjoy the benefits that are given to the other islands that make up the Tri-island State.

“Simple things that we should have privileges to, we’re not. Simple things we should be included in, we’re not,” she said.

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has announced plans to put on the referendum ballot a change of name of the State of Grenada to include both Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

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