Covid19 is not only a pandemic but a harbinger of food shortages. Unfortunately, our government still does not recognize the importance of food security. With international borders on lockdown it means there is going to be ongoing food shortages. However, innovative plans to resuscitate food production continue to elude our government as its modus operandi focus on spite and vindictiveness against rural and farming communities.
Food is life and if stomachs are hungry no amount of police presence is going to stop a population from revolting. This is not to justify the looting seen in the southern states of the USA. These are not cases of hunger but simply the action of a group of humanity that has a pathological instinct to loot whenever an opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, this instinct just kicks in propelling the group forward in a state of reckless greed and vandalism.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that our politicians learn from history. In 1812 when Napoleon invaded Russia with a huge army of between 450-650,000 soldiers, his army was defeated because of food scarcities. Crops were burnt and his starving soldiers had to abandon their positions and retreat. No army or police is going to man the barricade or patrol the streets on empty stomachs! The sooner our government can realize this truism the better.
In this country our famers are not given incentives to grow food. Daily lands are taken away from farmers to build houses for voter padding; subsidies are not given to reduce this high cost of inputs, nothing is being done to address poor irrigation, land tenure and theft of crops. Bush fires continue to wreak havoc on farm crops and equipment with no response or reassurance of compensation from the government.
Who are the spokesperson for agriculture in our parliament? I listened to Ms Vidya Gopiesingh’s contribution in parliament but it is more an echo than a voice. Agriculture is yet to find a place on the front burner of UNC politics. As for the Minister of Agriculture and his Parliamentary Secretary, they appear to be impotent, incapable of handling the numerous challenges.
The annual flooding across the country has become a bugbear for famers, Unfortunately, the Keith Rowley government does not appear to be bothered about its harsh impact on food security. “Money is no problem” delirium still enraptures the ego of this PNM government. Rowley needs to wake up to the reality that the oil, gas and petro-chemical boom has long vaporized. The reality is that our nation is in the brink of starvation, if not already there given the reality that 40% of the population is living below the poverty line.
This Covid 19 pandemic is an eye-opener to help us become aware of the dire need for food security. Agricultural means food in our stomachs. The pangs of hunger are real and if you have not experienced it as yet, it is like a tiger waiting in the dark to pounce on you at the shortest notice.
Middle class families have to invest in food security, not SUVs, mansions and travel to resorts abroad. The strategy should be a twining of the resources of the middle class with the skills and manpower of the farmers. Such a business strategy would empower our farmers, thus boosting food production and bringing financial benefits to all.
Covid 19 is a blessing in disguise for our local farmers. Our government would now be forced to recognize the important role farmers play in the social life of the nation. With the global transport industry in halt, there is going to be no quick recovery of shipping lines. Worst is that the economic arrangements of the past may just fall apart with new vistas of opportunities presenting themselves.
During World War 2 food was rationed. However, in the small village of Debe, the people grew rice, beans and vegetables. Any family could have journeyed to Debe and bought a mug of rice for 25 cents. The ambition and hard work of the farmers of Debe provided the initial capital for many families to purchase lands in the town of San Fernando.
Covid 19 is World War 3 and once again our farmers, not only those from Debe, but from every district and village, are called upon to rise to the new challenge to bring food security to the nation. Let us turn Covid 19 to our advantage-a glorious victory for the farming community. The worst the farmers and the people can do is to continue to hope that the government would come to their aid. This is never going to happen under this Rowley administration.