By Charles Bussue “Mr. Tourist, what images of the Caribbean/Nevis are conjured up in your mind when you contemplate vacationing there?” “White sandy beaches, beautiful weather, friendly people and sitting under the coconut palm with a gin and tonic or gin and coconut water.” As I thought about the response of Mr. Tourist, it came upon me in a rather striking manner that a considerable part of that image of Nevis is dying and not even the government (past or present) seems to have the will or the courage to do anything about it. Such an undertaking, as saving an icon may not translate into votes I surmised. Monday Online Code for Issue # 728 is VIE For as long as any one of us can remember, the coconut palm has always been with us and has played different roles in all our lives. This hardy plant has adorned every parish and I dare say every village for hundreds of years. And now, that tree, which has provided food, shade and did its best to slow the rate of soil erosion, is dying at an alarming rate. That same coconut tree whose nut provided the milk for our food, feed for our fowls and pigs, one of the basic ingredients for our local tarts and whose medicinal oil was good for hair growth, fighting a head cold and giving us beautiful skin; that tree is being allowed to die! The areas of Pinney’s Beach and the Bath Bogs tell a sad story. Is this one of the signs of our development where local fowls and pigs hardly matter anymore, where apple tarts have replaced the coconut tarts and when things for our hair growth and general health must come from abroad? Not so long ago we cherished bread and a bit of coconut and bread and sugar cake as our lunch. It was not unusual when hunger struck that boys and girls climbed the coconut palm and got their food from there. In Gingerland, every home had coconut trees and then there were the government owned areas, Low Ghaut, Mambo and Jackass Pasture all heavily planted with coconut trees. Just as our sister island St. Kitts had rolling fields of sugar cane (a sight to behold!) so it was that the coconut trees lined our low lands, midlands and valleys in Nevis. Our landscape would never be as attractive and aesthetically configured without the coconut trees. I must add, however, that all is not lost as we may still be able to get some coconut products. Coconut tarts may soon move from $3.00 and sugar cakes certainly will not stay at $2.00 much longer. May the Dominican coconut trees continue to live and thrive and may their vessels conquer the high seas on a weekly basis. While I marvel and applaud our Nevisian environmentalists for work already done and for raising our environmental awareness, I am left to wonder whether the dying coconut palms have ever appeared on their radar screens. There are some NGO’s on Nevis which have shown an ability over the years to source funds from regional and international organizations to effect certain projects. What about the dying coconut palms? Is it a project not worth undertaking? Governments usually speak about partnerships; if ever we needed good partnerships to save our coconut trees, it is NOW! There are some corporate entities which sell these islands showing a tourist sitting in a hammock under a coconut tree with a cocktail in their hand. Can partnerships comprising the Nevis Island Administration, the NGOs and environmentalists and our corporate entities be really established to find ways and means to prevent the further death of our beloved coconut trees? “Bartender, another gin and jelly water, please.” “I”m sorry Mr. Tourist. We have just run out of jelly water.” “Clarke, please sell me a tart and two sugar cakes.” “I”m sorry Charles. Check back on Tuesday when the Dominica boat with the coconuts comes in.” “Coconut Trees, I do not want you to rest in peace, even though the iron machines grind your broken bodies into mulch,” cried Charles.
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