Successive Barbados governments in the last twenty have shown little appetite to develop a vibrant agriculture sector. There is now a resignation by all but a few that the way services go so too the economic fortune of Barbados. The Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) chief spokesman on economic matters Clyde Mascoll is on record dismissing any significant investment by his government in the sector, reason being the high cost of inputs. The commonsense view that investing in a homegrown agriculture sector has more to do with addressing food security seems to be lost on policymakers. Of course there is the other reason which has to do with protecting our right to grow food which is not genetically modified and at the same time align with the positive message that healthy lifestyle is a worthwhile endeavor.
This government has uttered the correct messages regarding the need to etch an agriculture policy. However after four years there is not much one can honestly agree has been accomplished. There is the news making the rounds that the government currently has several acres of land under fruit cultivation. The project is expected to supply local demand. Up to the time of posting this blog BU was unable to identify the location. The reality is that members of government reflect the values of the society which produced them.
Barbadians have bought into the values of others where to cook a meal is today considered an irrelevant activity. We have become slaves to the taste of food because it is fashionable to do so. The fact that ingesting the food is known to do irreparable harm to the body is of little consequence. It hardly matters to many Barbadians that eating and drinking food sourced at the many fast food outlets is doing our bodies irreparable harm. Stake out any Return Bottle Depot at a local supermarket and see the car trunk loads of pep-bottles which are returned by the minute. We have also become slaves to convenience. We have time to go to the movie theater and enjoy other forms of entertainment, gossip on the telephone – both mobile and landlines, text away all day on the ubiquitous Blackberry, iPhone, iPad etc but little time for the important stuff. How many busy Barbadians would give-up ONE hour to visit a plantation to buy ground provisions and vegetables saving themselves dollars and protecting their health in the process? How many would pack a daily lunch bag instead of forking out $15-$20 to KFC and Chefette? Has anyone noticed that Chefette Restaurant is one of few businesses flourishing in the current recession?
Rosemary Parkinson, Kammie Holder and others continue against the odds to educate Barbadians about the likely repercussion of eating genetically modified foods manufactured by Monsanto and others. The news that consumers elsewhere felt concerned enough to mobilize against Monsato did not even make it on local media radar.
The saying that there much information circulating but little knowledge is as true as John 3:16. What will it take to address the everest like challenge of planning and executing a relevant agriculture policy in Barbados? What will it take to change the attitudes and behaviours of Barbadians to improve the quality of what we eat? Why should Carmeta Fraser have lived her live in vain?