Thu | Jul 7, 2022

Need all hands on deck to tackle food insecurity

Published:Tuesday | May 10, 2022 | 12:06 AM


Food – the threat of food insecurity to be more precise – is a clear and present danger not only to Jamaica but the world at large. While the current trepidation with which this is currently viewed, stemming largely from the unavailability of fertilisers and certain grains and sunflower seeds from Ukraine and Russia, the threat to the Caribbean has been around for many years.

I am befuddled by the fact that there are so many voices, from the World Bank to the man on the streets, as to what are the solutions. Hardly any have taken into consideration that there was, to my knowledge, a single time in Jamaica’s history when she produced enough to feed her population. This was in the latter part of the 1970s. What were the factors that led to this level of production, and are those factors still present, and can they be garnered for us to see a repeat of this feat to feed both our local population and the diaspora?

There are still a few who would have been part of that mobilisation of the 1970s. Dr Michael Witter, economist of some renown, who has remained close to the drive to solve some of the regions more intractable problems, comes to mind. Is it beyond our current leaders to engage with the likes of Dr Witter, who – I am willing to wager – taught members of the Cabinet?

There are also many in the diaspora who are willing and ready to do their bit to ensure that food is available for all of us. Yes, we might need to release both land and capital as a large percentage of lands are owned by members of the diaspora – some do not even know they are the legal owners.

Let us also find innovative ways to get the labour and technology applied to the problem. Very few want to work the land. So if labour has to be imported, let us put the policies and strategies in place to import labour in ways that will not put other progressive objectives at risk.

How we organise farms and other businesses is important. The solution may not only be in developing large capital-intensive and privately held farm operations. Crowd-farming is a viable option. Cooperatives have worked in other places and can work in Jamaica. The problems that have been associated with farming cooperatives in Jamaica must be seen as problems typical of an era. We know better than to throw away the baby with the bath water.

Let’s take a serious look at this problem and get ‘all hands on deck’ to find sustainable solutions. Jamaica still has a lot to teach the world.