Independent Senator Crystal Drakes wants to see more being done in the local agriculture sector to improve wages and provide opportunities for land ownership to workers in the industry.
“If we are asking persons to come into the sector, to increase the productivity and the production of the sector, what type of livelihood are we offering those individuals; what type of income are we offering those individuals?
Drakes, who spoke during Wednesday’s debate in the Senate on a Private Members’ Resolution drafted by Independent Senator Dr Chelston Brathwaite, said that though successive governments have sought to promote the importance of the sector, the lack of equity seen in farming on the island has for far too long gone under-recognized. The resolution, based on an Integrated Food Security Plan for Barbados, sought to underscore the critical nature of the agricultural sector to the country.
Senator Drakes said that at present about 2.5 per cent of the island’s labour force totalling 4 000 people, was engaged in agricultural activity.
“What is clear is we have no real understanding [of] the equity in the sector,” she said.
“Of those 4 000 persons, how many of them are land owners? Who are the landowners? Who are the ones reaping the real returns from agriculture? I think that is where the discussion in terms of the cultural or the racial divide comes into the discussion,” she told the Upper Chamber.
Drakes argued that it is not enough for people to find odd jobs in agriculture. Instead, there is a need for more emphasis to be put on improving the business opportunities for persons in the sector who may want to vastly increase their output which would ultimately strengthen the island’s food security.
“We cannot speak about agriculture in terms of placing persons on land that they do not own, for wages that are on the poverty line. We cannot ask persons in a 2023 Barbados, where we are saying we want to modernise the sector [but] not offering persons the ability to own the land that they are working. We are not offering them the business opportunity around agriculture.” (SB)