KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Agricultural lands in South Central Windward, previously the source of employment for many of its 10,000 constituents, now lie fallow, overgrown with weeds.
And area representative Saboto Caesar, speaking at a Unity Labour Party rally (ULP) Sunday night, told the 950 farmers in the district that it is time to begin farming again.
“I want you to trust me on this one. If we fail to go back to the lands and work, comrades, it is going to be a time of hardship for the poor and the working class people in this country,” he said.
“Tourism is the transformative sector but agriculture will forever remain the backbone of the economy of this rural [constituency]. God has blessed us with fertile soil; God has blessed us with strong men and women who can work,” added Caesar, who is also Minister of Tourism and Industry.
“Comrades, I am here tonight to speak to you frankly. I am here to speak to you the truth. Because if we don’t face the truth, we will never be able to build a sustainable livelihood,” he further stated.
He noted that South Central Windward has 3,500 acres of agricultural land but added that what used to be “one of the best pieces of cultivation” in the constituency is now overrun by weeds.
He said there is not EC$30,000 worth of produce in the district, as lands lie fallow.
“What does that mean to a farming community? What does that mean to a farming constituency? It means that those persons who use to be working … that they are unemployed,” he said.
“I speak to you as someone who came to you December last year and [who] you … have entrusted your confidence in,” said Caesar, 30, who is into his first term as an elected Member of Parliament.
Caesar repeated to constituents question a pastor asked at a recent funeral about farmer’s plans for their senior years.
“And that is what I want to solve tonight and begin a work in process over the next five year, so, at the end of my first term, you will see the works of the Unity Labour Party that there is no other party to vote in South Central Windward but the Unity Labour Party,” Caesar said.
But Caesar also acknowledged that praedial larceny – the theft of farm produce and animal — is still a problem, one that his government has been unable to arrest.
“If we have to move forward with production, we have to stop the stealing and we are doing so …”
He also announced that 300 chickens would be donated to five farmers next months with a similar initiative in each village in the constituency next year.
“You see farmers, in an economic crisis, we have to mobilised our people. We have to mobilise our supporters around production,” he said.
“Comrades, times are hard internationally. But we are taking our time and we are doing what we have to do,” he added.
Caesar told the rally that the three most important questions, regarding the world economy are: whether the United States can avert a double dip recession; whether the European Union (EU) can solve its debt problems; and, whether China can consume the bulk of its production in if the problems in the United States and the EU are not solved.