Sir Woodville Marshall, vice president of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, has raised some pertinent questions regarding food production and land use on the island.
While acknowledging that some progress has been made over the years, the historian has questioned: Has enough has been done when it comes to being self sufficient in food production? And can more could be done to put some parts of the land into agriculture?
Sir Woodville was speaking to Barbados TODAY following the official announcement of the society’s upcoming lecture series that will begin on March 18.
The focus will be on food and agriculture. The theme for this year’s event, which will be held at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed every Tuesday evening, is Big Grain Rice & Beyond: Feeding Barbados Yesterday And Today.
“Up to the 20th century and beyond you will notice that we were a foreign-fed country rather than home fed country. We did produce some food, but the greater proportion of our food had to be imported. That is not necessarily a criticism of the policies because on a cost benefit analysis it might turn out to be wise,” he said.
“Questions of course still arise. You need to examine that more fully to understand really whether it was a wise decision or whether it was a decision which would be sustained over time. The other thing therefore that we have noticed is that certainly, over the last 30, 40 or even 50 years there has been increasingly a measure of diversification in land use . . . . One of the unfortunate areas of which it goes in is the use of the land for residential accommodation,” he added.
Pointing out that the production of sugar cane had been de-emphasized while the production of vegetables and chicken and pig rearing had been increase, Sir Woodville said compared to a century ago local food production had definitely increased.
“So the question then is, have we gone as far as we should go? In other words is there a lot more that could be done? This is where of course the use of let’s say the Scotland District might become important. If in fact, we manage to bring the Scotland District into productive use wouldn’t that go far towards increasing the local food supplies?” he said.
“It seem therefore to be a good topical issue and we thought that we would present it. Not just as a set of issues that needed to be examined like what should we do in order to secure it, but rather, that we should be putting the whole thing in a historical perspective. In other words, what have we been doing in feeding our selves over the years? How have we been using the land? Have we had the right or wrong emphasis in terms of our land use policies? These are the sorts of issues we thought we should bring up,” said Sir Woodville.