This new policy framework of the PAM was recently outlined by the General Secretary of the Youth Arm of the party, Ms Latoya Bussue, at their recent convention. Ms. Bussue was one of seven youth presenters, who addressed the members of the political organization.
With an eye on the future of St. Kitts & Nevis, the General Secretary, pointed out that “Our salvation lies not in light manufacturing, offshore finances, not even tourism, but agriculture. The question then is why is agriculture placed so low on our developmental agenda?”
Borrowing from the 18th century English poet, Samuel Johnson, Ms. Bussue stated, “Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.”
Bussue highlighted the challenge of the common belief that our productive sector especially our young people, are not interested in agriculture because it is laborious, financially unrewarding and socially degrading.
However, the PAM youth leader countered by citing historical figures from the 1970s showing the positive contribution of the sector. “During the 1970’s, sugar was still king, and Agriculture’s contribution to GDP easily reached 20%. The sector employed over five thousand (5,000) low skilled workers and kept our soils fertile from year to year.”
Bussue argued that this has changed, claiming that the policies of the incumbent administration, “failed to see agriculture for its worth and the image of this noble profession was tarnished.”
In contrast, Bussue shared her opinion, that when her party held the reins of power, it revolutionized agriculture. She said the PAM introduced modern farming that showed greater productivity and prosperity. She cited the construction of feeder roads that were built at various farm communities, including Wingfield, Fahies and Saddlers to assist farmers.
Today, contends Bussue, agriculture has been put on the back burner and all our eggs have gone into the cruise tourism basket. We have moved from a sugar mono-culture to a tourism mono-culture, still no diversification and no food security for a people who are vulnerable to natural disasters like hurricanes and droughts. Our policy makers remain ignorant of the fact that “there can be no civilization without agriculture.”
She reminded her audience of the high import bill and the change in status from an exporter to net importer of food. “Last year (2010) our food input bill stood at a mind boggling Ninety (90) Million East Caribbean dollars and each year it is growing. Needless to say we are net importers of food although we are blessed with fertile soil and reliable rain fall. Whereas in the 1980’s we shipped to Dominica now we have become one of their major markets because our lands are diverted away from meaningful agriculture to the hands of foreign speculators,” said the General Secretary.
“It is a headache to get land for farming but land alone will not bring success. The availability of water for irrigation, strategies to combat praedial larceny, pest and disease control, and marketing are other important factors,” said Bussue.
Bussue, contended that our efforts to enhance our performance in agriculture, must include:
- Utilization of new methodologies like shade house technology and efficient water and land use, to produce in abundance.
- Agriculture must be able to empower the farmers so that they can use their land as collateral to build a business, a home, or educate their children.
- Find creative ways to attract young talented entrepreneurs into agriculture as a viable business, where they can take advantage of the latest available technology and market intelligence.