Amid concerns regarding food security in the Caribbean, the leader of Saint Lucia’s National Green Party (NGP) has accused the region of turning its back on agriculture.
“Now it has come back to bite them,” Andre de Caires told St Lucia Times.
The NGP leader expressed that it’s late for the region to be promoting self-sufficiency in food due to supply challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The full-time farmer by profession recalled growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, where farmers used to produce all the vegetables.
But de Caires lamented that arable lands had been lost and converted to commercial use.
“As the population is growing we are actually losing arable land that our generations to come will need to feed themselves. So the whole region has turned its back on agriculture and I believe that is a colonial rejection of working in the fields,” the NGP leader observed.
He noted that enslaved people and indentured labourers came to the Caribbean to work in the fields.
The NGP leader told St Lucia Times that, as a result, people look down on agriculture as a means to support themselves.
In this regard, the de Caires asserted that many neo-colonialist leaders with their neo-colonialist attitudes want to move away from the slavery mentality and make forays into tourism and industry.
“Nobody wants to be a farmer. We’re on the lowest peg of the social ladder and now it has come back to bite us because now we are beginning to appreciate how important it is to feed ourselves,” the NGP leader declared.
And pointing to the independent Caribbean countries, de Caires asserted that an inability to feed oneself could not constitute true independence.
“True independence is food independence,” he told St Lucia Times, noting that his party has been voicing that position since the 2011 election.
However, he said administrations in the Caribbean have not focused on food security.
“Now the horse is out of the stable, how are we get it back?” the NGP leader stated.
He said backyard gardens, recently promoted by Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere, are a means to help people feed themselves.
Nevertheless, de Caires expressed that it will take a lot of administration and planning to get Saint Lucia to where agriculture will pay, and people can feed themselves.
“But we can’t just be doing talk shops. We must have an implementation phase where we get it off the ground – land prepared, drainage done, irrigation set up, , marketing set up, post-harvest activities, adding shelf life and value. We need to have every link in the chain so we do not starve to death,” the NGP leader told St Lucia Times.
(Story updated to correct typos in the spelling of the name of the NGP leader)