The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) has recently embarked on a drive to deepen the region’s economic growth and foster greater integration by means of agriculture.

This initiative has been articulated by Dr. Cheston Brathwaite who remarked as follows: “We in the Caribbean cannot develop to be a world class society if we depend on others to produce what we eat, drink and wear.”

This is such a common sense observation that we wonder why it was necessary for an expert of Dr. Brathwaite’s calibre to make it.

Yet his remark is timely, for in some areas of the Caribbean, there seems to be thinking that a farming economy is a primitive economy. Based on this fallacy many areas of farming have either been neglected or not sufficiently promoted.

In the list of pursuits to which the present generation of youth aspire, farming and fishing fall almost to the bottom, as our youth have the idea that these pursuits require too much hard work, lack the glamour and comfort and offer less income than other areas of employment.

Dr. Brathwaite’s remark, made under the auspices of such a prestigious regional body as the IICA, should alert the Caribbean to the dangers of negative attitudes to agriculture, and should alert all of the region’s governments to the very real need for positive action in this very vital aspect of our existence.

Without food we will starve to death.

In the context of St. Kitts-Nevis this is a call to serious action. To our credit we have some of the very best agricultural experts and technicians in the Caribbean. All they need is a receptive public and political leadership which would deliver the message of the value of food to our system.

The idea that we should depend on the United States to provide us with carrots, cabbages and sweet peppers should be debunked and replaced by the fact that, feeding ourselves can become a safe means of existence for our population and a lucrative means of livelihood for a new generation of young farmers.

We may also read into Dr. Brathwaite’s remark that food is required beyond present consumption needs. In this regard we ought to actively consider the establishment of food processing plants to provide the region with a variety of preserved foods.

We applaud the work which our agricultural sectors are doing and we urge greater positive action with regard to developing better food production.

We urgently advocate the reallocation of the sugar lands to the Ministry of Agriculture for the production of food for our local population, our tourists and for export to our non-agricultural neighbours.