At his funeral in late 2016 in Islington, St. Mary, representatives from the The Rural Agricultural Development Authority(RADA) offered glowing accolades. His dedication was unwavering, his character impeccable, and his commitment to his fellow citizens, and community immutable. Yet throughout his life, in his mind he was just a very honest, poor, ambitious, hard working, local farmer.
During his tenure at the leadership level within the RADA he had strenuously and successfully provided apolitical leadership. That was an extremely difficult, almost insurmountable challenge. Misguided, uneducated farmers were prone to see everything through their orange or green political lenses. The more educated but entirely selfish and ignorant political hacks always using divisive politics, sought to mislead, confuse, and conquer. Meetings to uplift, and address the cause of the poor farmers would be hijacked to advance one political cause or other depending on the party in power. The introduction of cutting edge forming practices though important agenda items were never seen as relevant. Developing state of the art marketing techniques to ensure all produce successfully went to market floundered. Meanwhile Jamaican hoteliers lamented the ready availability of abundant home grown produce.
The big surprise was, why did this poor, strong and healthy rural farmer with limited education remain committed to farming? And why was he dedicated to the wellbeing of his poor -some would posit – unfortunate rural counterparts? Limited options mainly! He had a family to sustain. He was committed to working hard and honestly. Stuck in the rural community there was no honest, easy way out. Rural Jamaican life was all he knew and the only certainty he had experienced. His father and grandfather before him were both farmers. As a young man farming gave precedence to school attendance. His parents, despite his vehement disapproval, held him out of school so he would reliably assist on the farm. Farming was a demanding seven days per week endeavor. And when his dad died he inherited the small multi-acre family banana plantation.
As I spoke with him in the 1980s his disillusionment was palpable. Acres of cassava were ready to be harvested. No viable market existed. Family bills needed to be paid. Farm hands were looking at him in disbelief waiting anxiously to be rewarded for investing in his failed, fanciful dream. He felt defeated. They were reasonably, very, very angry. Enormous energy had been wasted on fulfilling, shattered, empty politician promises.
Based on pronouncements months earlier by the Minister of Agriculture he had invested faithfully and unreservedly, planting acres of cassava on very fertile rural family land. The cassava, the Minister had advised, was going to be purchased by, and delivered to the yet unrealised projected Cassava factory to be built at Gutters in St. Elizabeth. And he, believing the Ministers words as gospel, had delivered on his end cassava in abundance.
Almost thirty years later Red Stipe announced a project, now successfully implemented, using cassava in the production of its world famous Jamaican beer as reported in the Jamaica Observer article Friday June 9, 2015; “Local cassava starch now key ingredient in Red Stipe beer”.
This seventy seven year old rural farmer was now far too frail and too emotionally broken to believe or benefit. He was at deaths door from un-resectable terminal cancer. Oh such a tragedy!
Callous Jamaican politicians still today continue this ruinous practice of declaring as real truly fanciful projects oblivious to the detrimental impact on the lives of poor, hard working, long suffering decent, trusting, Jamaicans. Port Royal it was recently declared will soon have a floating cruise ship peer. Enormous life changing, GDP bulging, Marijuana markets are just around the bend. Special quality of life enhancing, employment generating, economic zones are about to burst forth in every village. The opposition Peoples National Party is flirting with a new, not yet fully articulated, plan to accomplish massive land reform and unlock the potential of landless farmers.
Meanwhile the governing Jamaican Labor Party boasts about the Establishment of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), an independent comprehensive body, to investigate and prosecute facilitators of high crimes and other illegal activity including corruption, as being a major step forward. The JLP remains totally oblivious, as are all parties in power, to the gaping loopholes which will make this newly proclaimed law near impotent. Meanwhile concerns abound about long standing but only recently discovered questionable practices at the oil refinery, Petrojam Limited.
And so poor Jamaicans languish. Some loudly wondering if the achievement of independence as a nation was blind commitment to being enslaved by our own home grown masters.
Prime Minister, the Honorable Andrew Holness, and Opposition Leader, the Honorable Peter Philips – the queens dedicated subjects – your citizens await your answer. The question: are we modern day slaves in a society aimless adrift under your supposedly brilliant – but what some loudly declare – inept stewardship?
By Guest author: Leon Wright.
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