The Future of Agriculture
Readers of this weekly column will understand why for this week I have delayed the promised Part II of my "Crime of Intolerance" article, and chosen to write instead on a topic more directly related to the presentation of the national budget in Parliament this week. Dominica's agriculture sector has the potential to be still successful, even rewarding – but it faces a number of immediate challenges that have festered over the years. They include:
1 Prevalence of old farming methods – and likewise farmers
2.Ineffective disease management
3.High costs of production
- Uncompetitive access to markets
6.Extremes of weather – and getting worse through Climate Change
7.Most significantly, a general lack of appeal to young persons
Almost all of these can be mitigated considerably if a more serious approach was taken at the top, and utilizing competent and experienced professionals from wherever obtainable to execute a dedicated strategy. It will never be the agriculture of old, but it can be a very useful component of the productive sector. A lot depends on the policies of the government – and especially how it presents the image of agriculture.
The sector has received "support" from all governments. Also, much financial aid, especially from Britain and the EU; though some would argue that much of it has gone down the drain. Another 15 million Euros is currently being pumped into our agriculture by the EU under what is known as the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM), a five year programme of interventions. Their theme is instructive: "Enhancing competitiveness and increasing productivity of the agricultural sector", but I leave it to the authorities (and the public) to judge whether anything substantive has yet been achieved…
I end on a philosophical note. Outstanding eco-writer Paul Crask says: "The world can sometimes feel like it is on a self-destructive path with war, pollution, starvation, population growth, climate change, all real problems that seem to worsen rather than improve. In the future perhaps the most valuable assets of any nation will be nature, food and water. If we look after what we have, if we farm to feed ourselves and our immediate neighbours, maybe this means Dominica is already one of the most developed countries on earth".
It's one way – a very positive way – of thinking of Dominica's future.