Barbados Agricultural Society chief executive officer James Paul wants an immediate halt to large-scale housing construction in St Thomas.
Against the backdrop of a noticeably high involvement of young people in last weekend’s Agrofest, Paul said these people badly needed land of their own, but were being limited by speculating land developers, some who have now moved from just holding idle agricultural land to putting up housing units close to already established agriculture investments.
“I could think of one in St Thomas in particular. I mean we are allowing a situation where residential developments are coming too close to agricultural establishments. It could pose problems for the future . . . . We have spoken to the fact that those buildings that are being constructed next to that pig farm in Content, St Thomas, should not be allowed,” Paul said as he took Opposition Leader Mia Mottley on a tour of the fair Saturday.
He added: “We see another situation developing in St David’s [Christ Church], and I know the Chief Town Planner has indicated that they are going to do town hall meetings on this question.”
Returning to a situation over which he has voiced annoyance for many years, Paul said: “We need to stop this foolish thing that is happening, where people come in, acquire agricultural land for speculative purposes, and then what they do is they seek permission from the Town Planner to cut it up. Barbados cannot survive off of reckless development.
“What it is doing is frustrating a lot of the young people you see here, who want to engage in agriculture. They want the land, but because of the fact that we have the large landowners blocking them from gaining access to that land, we have difficulty.”
Paul was nonetheless pleased with the weekend’s national agricultural showcase event.
“I think Agrofest is stimulating interest on the part of young people. I think it is going to grow, and I think the plans we have over the next three years, we would see new things being introduced each time.”
He said: “[What] we have to do of course is to believe in the fact that agriculture can do it. And we have to commit the resources that are required in order to carry the agriculture sector to the level that it is going.”
On the matter of committing resources, the Government Member of Parliament found agreement with the Leader of the Opposition.
“I think this country has to make a greater effort in stabilizing agriculture, and to recognize that there are a few structural things that only Government can help bridge the gap,” Mottley said after completing the tour with Paul.
“A lot of the people who want naturally to grow their own, may have passion, may not have the money, and that’s one of the reasons that we would like to see a recapitalization of the Agriculture Development Fund to be able to allow people to expand and move to the next level, and for more people to come in.”
She also called for a reduction of the bureaucracy involved in using money from the fund. Like Paul, Mottley was heartened by the number of young people she saw involved in agriculture at the 2014 Agrofest.