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Letter: Wrecking agriculture in SVG, and Saboto Caesar's amazing statements
Published on August 14, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Sunday morning on the way to church I was thinking about the current plight of our farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It's my opinion, by my often being with them, that I have a special insight into their lives. The Vincentian farmers who were once able to generate wealth and well being for their families, have since 2001 been reduced to peasants and even in some cases paupers. Men and women, some days unable to put gas in their old pickup trucks, have to take a bus to the shops and stores.

So I decided to trawl the internet for some figures and statements regarding our agriculture.

When the ULP took away the farmers associations and the assets attached thereto, which in my mind was nothing more than trickery and sleight of hand, things took an evil turn. When the ULP first got into power they tried to convince the farmers that the route they should take is that of solidarity. They started using all those Marxist terminology words. They asked them if they would like to become a co-operative, a communist controlled kind of organisation. Of course, the farmers didn’t want that, so the government decided on another way of taking their valuable association properties, thus the trickery and sleight of hand was hatched.

A big effect on the well being of our farming community on the leeward coast has been the building of Bell Isle Prison and Correction Facility, where some of the best farm land on the leeward was taken from the farmers for its construction and curtilage. It would be interesting to know how those farmers were financially treated by the government. Because on the Windward side of the island, the very best production farm land in the whole of St Vincent was stolen from the farmers. I say stolen because it was taken from them, some as early as 2008, and now in 2014, some six years later they still have not been paid for their lands. This action by the government of stealing the farmers’ land must mean that the owners have been put out of business, they cannot produce, and they cannot buy land elsewhere on the island. They cannot in many cases afford to live, cannot afford to send their children to university, and they certainly cannot afford to get ill or die. They cannot afford to provide for a widow.

Yes you are reading me right; they still haven't been paid for their lands in 2014.

I notice in a number of reports that the SVG government informed several organisations [including the IMF] that the decline in agriculture was because of a number of plant diseases.

What the government failed to tell these organisations was that the plant diseases were so great because the ministry of agriculture failed to get them under control, and in some cases failed to control them at all. They failed to tell them that drought in dry seasons could not now be alleviated because they had allowed the irrigation system to become defunct, it no longer works, and in some places it no longer exists. They failed to inform the organisations that they had under-funded the ministry of agriculture to such a degree that they were unable to consistently spray the crops, and in some cases sprayed twice in six months when they should have sprayed twice every month. They failed to enlighten the institutions that the money for the ministry of agriculture was diverted to building the Argyle airport. That they couldn't afford to fund both, so chose the airport over agriculture.

So then I decided to look at annual figures published by a number of different organisations, and to compare them with each other, to see if they had all been fed the same information. Really to see if there was a Maurice Bishop style of reporting going on to deceive lenders such as World Bank and the IMF.

But went in a different direction when I found an article that sent me off on a digression.

I found an article dated January 2013, written by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], titled “We want to be one of the first islands in the Caribbean to reach zero hunger”. An article based on an interview given by Saboto Caesar, our minister of agriculture, fisheries, forestry's and rural transformation. At the time he was in Santiago, Chile.

Caesar told them his prime objective is for the country to eradicate hunger, through St. Vincent and the Grenadines Zero Hunger program. "We want to be one of the first islands in the Caribbean to reach zero hunger."

He said we had achieved the Millennium Development Goal number one, and the very coveted World Food Summit Goal, which means that the country was able to reduce hunger and under nourishment to fewer than 5% of the population.

He explained the FAO sub-regional office in Barbados sent a nutritionist to our SVG, to see how we can utilize our local food to guarantee more nutritious meals, and within two months we received technical support from the FAO to do a survey of the country, look at all the government reports and speak with non-government organizations, and he was able to identify those places in the country where there are pockets of poverty and under nourishment. Now we have a working model of how we are going to use our local food production to create more nutritious food and tend to the most vulnerable, as well as reducing food waste.

Then Caesar went on to talk about agriculture under the heading "Why use agriculture as a means to overcome food insecurity and poverty?"

"In St Vincent and the Grenadines because of our small population size we cannot use economies of scale in a carte blanche way because our size just makes us very peculiar. It is not difficult to feed 109,000 people.

"Even though we are small in fact we have so much food that we actually export.

"What we have to do to reach zero hunger is an issue of [here comes the Marxist wording] redistribution and creating an atmosphere of wealth and poverty alleviation within these pockets of poverty, so that they can acquire food in an affordable way.

"One critical issue that I wanted to address is that you cannot address hunger and under-nourishment by only looking at this problem from the point of view of people not having a meal.

"That is the end stage of hunger but they will have been many steps that led to this person not having access to a meal.

"So when addressing the issue of zero hunger we will also be addressing other critical issues such as employment in rural areas.

"When someone is employed, when we give people land, when we create subsidies and grants for farmers so they can increase their income levels, once that happens they can afford food.

"We are not going to have a meals on wheels program, where we going to send the truck into each district to give you three square meals a day, because that is not a sustainable way to end hunger and it's also going to be a heavy burden on the national purse."

What grants? What subsidies? The government has given what can be likened to a handful of peanuts. They are not alleviating hunger among the farmers, they are driving them into poverty, but the farmers will always be able to feed themselves.

The problems arise because the farmers are earning nothing, the shopkeepers and stores earn nothing from them, and an evil circle is created. Because money is made to go around, those at the bottom get no employment from farmers, and others in between that earn from farmers are unable to employ the less fortunate.

He says they are creating jobs, what jobs? The jobs they have are all government created jobs, no private sector jobs. They have created zilch. If any worker or group of workers asks for money owed to them, wages, or expenses, allowances or such like, they sack them, fire them, throw them on the scrap heap. Look at the port police and the agricultural irrigation workers. Demanded being paid, zoom, Massa has them out on the street. Whole families starving, including their children and babies.

Before Christmas, Easter and Carnival, poor villagers are given work cleaning gutters, ditches and drains. Chopping the vegetation from beside the roads. Sent out like slave gangs to earn a handful of dollars, not enough to feed the family for a week. This nasty government likes to announce that they are helping people during those holiday periods. If giving them three to six weeks work a year is help, someone must be pretty sick in the mind. Besides that, it’s not to help the people, it’s to ensure the island looks spick and span when those in the Diaspora return home during these holiday periods. The same as some of the holes in the roads are repaired in the same periods for the very same reason. To create the illusion that everything is hunky dory to our returning Vincentians from abroad.

Ceasar finally said, "Personally, I'm very excited that we will be able to reach the goal of ending hunger before 2015."

Well its before 2015 now, I look around and still find people buying 1/4 lb of rice, 1/2 lb of chicken back, 1 onion, 1 egg. People begging in the streets. School children begging for lunch money in the car parks, having been sent to school with no breakfast. Dozens of people being fed at the Catholic Cathedral and Salvation Army feeding stations. People sleeping in doorways and on the pavement, not just at night, in the middle of the day. People having to choose between buying school books and putting food on the table.

Well everything is not good in SVG; I would like to ask the FAO just what they are playing at and how they gather the information that tells them that people are not hungry in SVG. http://www.fao.org/americas/noticias/ver/en/c/230487/

The other part of this story: Checking annual figures published by a number of different organisations, to compare them with each other, to see if they had all been fed the same information. To see if there was a Maurice Bishop style of reporting going on to deceive lenders such as World Bank and the IMF, even the FAO -- the story will be told at another time soon.

Peter Binose
 
Reads: 2934





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Comments:

Vinci Vin:

Peter:

Here we go again. I will be accused of siding with you and being an NDP supporter. But that does not bother me because I find much truth in your report. You have provided pertinent information that any Vincentian of Good Will can use in their own analysis of hunger in SVG.


As for the plight of the Vincentian farmers, I come from a long line of Vincentian farmers. My family farmed on both the Windward and Leeward sides of SVG. In fact, my father and his cousins employed close to 100 workers during the decades before independence. And although my father left the country before independence his extended family and my mother's family continued to farm after independence. This family included the Grahams, Morris, Johnsons, Cupids, et al of the Windward coast and the Grahams of Vermont. But today, some of the land is being cultivated while most of it is idle and overgrown with elephant grass .... the incentive to farm has been taken away. And my dearly departed grand-parents are shaking their heads as they look down on what used to be a self-reliant and proud agricultural community.

Another thing Peter, I see people puffing up themselves and declaring how they are building a nation. Well, the nation of SVG was built on the backs of the farmers, fisherfolks and others engaged in the production of goods for export and domestic consumption ... not on the rhetoric of politicians. Therefore, by destroying the very fabric of our farming legacy the politicians are destroying the foundation of our nation.

By the way Peter, it is ironic that two of the persons whose family lands were taken at Argyle are qualified agriculturalists who went abroad to study agriculture based on their historical interest in farming. One of those persons returned to SVG and lead agricultural research at the Ministry of Agriculture before retirement. He had to relocate from Argyle to make way for the airport (Which I continue to support). His uncle remained at the University of Tennessee where he is a Professor of Plant and crop Science. He also had his lands at Argyle acquired for airport use. I earned a Master of Science degree at the University of Tennessee where I met these two Vincentians who like myself can look back on our proud farming history.

I do not know if this family has been fully compensated for their lands. However, I find that it is a disgrace ti observe how agriculture has deteriorated in SVG. While the completion and operation of the Argyle International Airport is expected to bring value to our homeland, any continued inaction to pay farmers for their lands is inexcusable, no matter how much political spin one puts on it.

Best regards,

Vinci Vin

Bryan Alexander:

PETER BIGNOSE AND VINCI VIN never cease to amaze us!

THEY SIMPLY LIE with impunity, and think nothing about it!

Both of these LYING CLOWNS know that nothing they say, is true, but they say it anyway.

THE TRUTH IS THAT agriculture in St Vincent was killed BEFORE the ULP and Ralph Gonsalves were elected to form our present government.

The previous Prime Minister, James Mitchell, was/is also an AGRONOMIST, but nevertheless permitted agriculture to "go to the dogs."

Under Mitchell and the NDP, the Diamond Dairy was closed.

UNDER MITCHELL AND THE NDP, the sugar industry died. Their justification was that it may have been cheaper to import, not recognizing that by doing so, foreign exchange would be leaving the country.

Additionally, they did not realize that the farmers and those dependent on them would be the net losers. Nor did they take into consideration the multiplier effect of keeping that money circulating in the country.

Mitchell, as an AGRONOMIST, must be the most dismal failure we have ever seen, since as an agricultural professional, and minister of agriculture, he had a golden opportunity to firmly place his productive thumb-print on our country. "HE DISAPPOINTED!"

Mitchell, like everyone else knew we were about to lose our preferential status in Europe for our main money-earner, bananas. BUT HE DID NOTHING ABOUT IT.

BANANAS had previously accounted for fully 60% of our income/earned foreign exchange, therefore such an action on his part could only be describes as being CRIMINAL.

MITCHELL, even went on record BY BRAGGING that "when we in the Grenadines have fish, you in St Vincent will not have bananas!"

Now Peter Bignose and Vinci Vin want to re-write history by telling is that the problem presently being experienced is Ralph Gonalves and the ULP's fault!!!

PETER BIGNOSE AND VINCI VIN could only fool those who do not know better.

Peter Binose:

Bananas still had a future in SVG, not the huge export future as before. Farmers could still earn a living, and supermarkets in the UK and Ireland still wanted to market our bananas on a preferential basis.

Along came two diseases that seriously affected the banana, but the diseases were treatable. Saint Lucia got their disease problem under control.

It was the Ministry of Agricultures responsibility to arrange crop spraying by aircraft, and other hand spraying on a set basis with set periods between spraying. Because the government failed to fund the Ministry the spraying was neglected to such a degree that Sigatoka got a strong foot hold and destroyed the whole banana business. Then the farmers were told to slash the banana crop/trees and replant. They did this twice and again the Min of Ag failed to spray in accordance to best practices, and for three months not at all, saying a part was needed for the aircraft.

We are not talking about 20 years ago, we are talking and writing about now. This nasty Marxist mixture of leaders and collaborators like someone who uses someone else’s name when he calls himself Brian Alexander. Instead of addressing the problem that the ULP government have failed with agriculture in everyway possible, even now a failure in Cocoa.

How about the sixty farmers at Argyle who have not been paid for their land, robbed by this nasty Marxist for the people government. No comment at all from this false named identity thief.

This NDP party is not the same party it was under Sir James Mitchell, he has no influence at all in the current party, he has become more aligned and accepted as some kind of partner to the ULP. I am surprised Gonsalves hasn’t given Mitchell a job like he gave Beache.

Whilst the Unity Labour Party is not a labour party at all its a Marxist party, it became so when it was hijacked from what we knew as the Labor Party.

Arnhim Eustace is a decent sort of man even if some people claim to find him boring. What matters is that he is not a self admitted liar or a man known to tell lies. He has never been accused of any sex crimes or charged with rape. He is not a financial or fiscal dunce. He is a man that I would trust to leave my daughter alone in his company. He will never be a weekly world traveller, and will be a low maintenance leader instead of a high maintenance leader. He will never need to be surrounded by bodyguards, and will never need a bullet proof car. He will never talk up crime and how to hunt them down until they exist no more. He will bring a totally different message and discipline to our police force. He will look to achieve a kinder and gentler society, and I believe he will do just that.

By the way Brian Alexander, you being fairly close to the PM’s back side, perhaps you can tell us all exactly what he means when he tells us he is here to finish the work of Maurice Bishop, that nasty Grenadian Marxist-Leninist, who was at the time trained and controlled by Cuba and the USSR. What does he mean by such a statement?

Maurice Bishop was building an airport for military use by the Cubans and Russians, and under the instructions of the Cubans instructed his central committee to keep two sets of accounts so as to commit fraud on the IMF. Plenty of public records in Grenada and Maryland USA to prove such statements by me.

Not that I am saying that is what is currently happening in SVG, but when our PM makes such statements it worries me, even if it worries no one else.

Just a couple of other things, I still want to know all about the US$1 million dollars hawked around Kingstown in an old bag, where did it come from? Also why the 60 farmers at Argyle have had their land stolen from them, Why? Is it some kind of punishment?

Vinci Vin:

Brian Alexander, Bryan Alexander, Patterson of Kingstown Park, PKnight, how many personalities do you have? Are you a hog for pseudonyms?

So you say:"THE TRUTH IS THAT agriculture in St Vincent was killed BEFORE the ULP and Ralph Gonsalves were elected to form our present government." But wasn't the ULP elected to right the wrongs of the Mitchell administration? In fact, I was among those who had high hopes that the ULP would usher in a period of scientific and positive economic developments in SVG. To date, I am greatly Disappointed! What went wrong? The substitution of begging and pdeudo-revolutionary rhetoric for policy initiatives. And, the inability to plan, execute and manage a successful program in the public interest. I pray that God will help us with the Argyle Airport.

Disappointed because the ULP of Mr. Gonsalves had brought our people to penury and rob them of the self-confidence to rise above their circumstance through the Vincy-spirit that powered our people throughout and after slavery.

Disappointed that our PM cannot answer a simple question with forthright truth but writes an epistle with the hopes of obfuscating the issues and fooling the public.

Dis-illusioned because our country is being managed by a cadre of inexperienced, uncouth politicians who appear to be drunk with the power hijacked from the people while working and looting the treasury solely for their family and friends.

Disillusioned because as one searchlight columnist puts it recently our pseudo-leader appears to have brought a jinx on our beloved country as in failed banana industry, failed cocoa industry, failed national stadium, failed cross-country road, corruption in high and low places, political trickery as demonstrated at the funerals of Saluchie and E. G. Lynch, gimmickery as in hoousing revolution, education revolution, health care revolution and all the other nonsense cooked up to betray the future of Hairouna.

Let it be clear: I speak for no political party, persons, group of persons, or enterprise but myself, a Vincentian national. I speak as one who knows the value of hard work and self-reliance. I speak as one who has experienced the struggles and sacrifices of my people and their hopes for the betterment of our country. I speak with dis-satisfaction on the path that our country has been led down these past 14 years. Yes I mourn for Hairouna.

Mr. PM: If your strategy is to tell lies, then you lied to me in 2001. If your strategy is to tell bigger lies, then you continued to tell whoppers to the people. But it appears that your lies, mi-informations and ommissions have reached the point of DIMINISHING RETURNS. Vincentians are now sceptical of the words coming out of the PM and his mouthpieces. That is why the PM's bold-faced attempt to hijack the E.G. Lynch funeral backfired.

But coming back to Agriculture, I have great sympathy for Saboto Caesar. His association with the failed policies or non-agricultural policies of Gonsalves and the ULP will come back to haunt him. Saboto needs to jump out of this sinking ULP ship. Just look at all the former MNU members who have been destroyed to the benefit of the former MNU leader and his inner circle.

We need leadership and positive actions to save our country.

Vinci Vin

Steve Huggins:

Amen, Bro. Vinci Vin Samuel.


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