THE IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. When he said this, he called out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear” - Luke 8:8
The Christmas season has peaked and, after we herald the advent of a New Year, we will gradually return to a more normal mode of operation. Many of us have only paid lip service to prudent food consumption behaviour over the season. New Year resolutions to increase our regular exercise regimes are being formulated and, for the vulnerable, the glucometers have been dusted off to monitor the damage that has been done by our desire to constantly satisfy that “sweet tooth” and to assess the level of management required to control the threat of diabetes, a national scourge.
Amidst all this a national election is imminent and the primary issues appear to be “leadership” and “the third term syndrome”. I interpret a high leadership score of an incumbent leader to be reflective of the satisfaction of performance in leading the country over the period of his/her watch. On the other hand, a lower leadership score of a leader in-waiting is what I would expect because he/she would not have been in the national limelight in a decision making role. In any case the successful leaders were once leaders in-waiting and, at that time, they suffered the same apparent indignity of lower leadership scores. This is therefore for me not an issue in this upcoming election.
Of greater importance is “the third term syndrome” embodying assumptions of arrogance which are expected from a human being when he/she enjoys extended periods of power. There is likely to be a compelling force among uncommitted voters to mitigate the chances of a the third term (incidentally, for those of you who are questioning my arithmetic, I have not included the BLP’s first term in the reckoning since rather than being earned it was handed to them by the DLP). Historically, the party in-waiting, at the end of a second term, has a natural advantage as one observes a natural swing away from the Government because of this syndrome. The incumbent party then has to devise a strategy of countervailing forces to stem the tide. This is where the people’s manifesto, introduced last week, is important. This manifesto states what the people’s needs are and, if it is believed to be a reality, then it would be wise for the Manifesto of each party to be fairly consistent with that of the People’s Manifesto.
In an emerging nation such as Barbados, people are our most important asset and we must develop them to the fullest especially if we want not only to lead the developing world, as far as the human development index is concerned, but also want to be among the top nations in the world. People need a balanced nutritional diet, as well as exercise and peace of mind, to perform optimally and develop the country. Nutrition comes primarily from food. This means that agriculture is paramount and we are best advised to “grow what we eat and eat what we grow” and focus on food security in these times of uncertainty and rising transport costs.
In capturing the uncommitted voter the people’s manifesto demands creative and innovative strategies to lead and develop the agricultural sector. There is much that can be done in this respect.
The framework governing trade between the Caribbean and Europe, production and productivity inefficiencies, lack of adequate land use policies, the lack of vision, the failure to listen to voices of experience and the disenchantment of many of the farmers, have resulted, in general, in a declining agricultural industry.
The information technology and telecommunications revolutions have created opportunities not only in innovative high technology sectors themselves but also through the impact of high technologies on the existing areas of economic development, including agriculture. An area in which there has been much talk for about 25 years and very little action is that of tourism agriculture linkages. Tourism is our major industry; let agriculture play its part!
There has been a number of Think Tanks done on various aspects of the industry and a number of ideas put forward for change over the years, but this has not been followed up by the preparation of comprehensive Business Plans to be implemented for the restructuring of the industry.
The Barbados Society for Technologists in Agriculture decided to change the format of their Annual Technical Conference in 2006 to accommodate a visioning process which would bring together industry stakeholders to focus on the re-engineering of the industry, and a rationalization of the organizations involved in agriculture in an effort to facilitate the implementation of business plans to expedite trade in agricultural products and services.
The vital importance of finding timely solutions to the problems facing the industry was demonstrated by the impressive turnout of about 50 persons representing more than 25 organizations, including the Ministry of Agriculture. No apparent action has been taken.
May your seed fall on good soil and may you reap holistic prosperity in the coming year. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business
Enterprise Trust Inc. - www.cbetmodel.org)