SENATOR KNACYNTAR NEDD-CHARLES
Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture
Agriculture and Fisheries have been the backbone of the Barbuda economy ever since its modern beginnings. The island was a series of farms where food crops were cultivated and farm animals were nurtured, in order to reduce the food import bill of the Codrington plantations in Antigua and, certainly, in Barbuda. Fish was also caught, including turtles, to increase the protein intake of those who were forcibly made to work for no recompense during 200 years of un-free labour.
More recently, beginning with the steamship that could transport people as well as goods over long distances, people would escape their poverty and restrictive possibilities in Barbuda by migrating freely to England, or to the United States, or to Canada. It is estimated that more Barbudans and their offspring live in the cities of Leicester and London, New York and Massachusetts, Toronto and Ontario, than in Codrington. In return, the immigrants and their offspring still provide both consumer items and cash remittances to their families back home, reducing the poverty that would otherwise plague the small population. Sand mining also became a source of revenue for the local government—formalized in 1981—but that has had a limited shelf-life because of the finite quantity of sand that can be removed sustainably.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Coco Point Lodge and several small hotels were added to the economic mix, giving tourism a solid and irreversible place in the material welfare of the Barbuda population. Two schools, a hospital, a runway capable of accommodating small aircraft, a covered dock in the Codrington Lagoon—which itself became a tourist attraction—helped to move Barbuda out of abject poverty to a reasonably comfortable state, still largely undeveloped. Throughout this modern period—1945 to the present, or for these past 75 years—Barbuda has grown and certain historical crops and the products of animal husbandry have declined in output.
In order to enable an increase in agricultural output, new scientific methods that appeal to youth, will have to be encouraged. Work in a hotel will otherwise continue to be more attractive and financially rewarding than farming. However, certain traditions including fishing for fresh fish, conchs and lobsters will remain in high demand; with available capital and low-cost start-ups in fishing, there will still be many willing to engage in this economic sector for the freedom over self that independence engenders.
A new hotel and a new runway, a new yachting dock and a new cargo/cruise dock, will cause an increased demand for all kinds of fish, fresh vegetables and seasonings, that Barbuda’s farmers and fisherfolk will provide. In other words, the future for agricultural possibilities, especially if new, scientific methodologies are applied, would make for greater possibilities in this sector.
Greenhouse-grown food-crops; conservationist aquaponics that can grow green leafy vegetables, yet would reduce freshwater consumption; storage facilities for both water and food-crops destined for the market, will impact agriculture on Barbuda as the economy expands. Wealth creation and equitable distribution of opportunity will be the lot of Barbuda’s youth, now and in the future.
I congratulate the Barbuda people for their determination. Though Hurricane Irma destroyed our homes and buildings, our farms and our farm animals, we are rebuilding a more resilient and stronger Barbuda, capable of wealth generation, sufficient to contribute to the Treasury of Antigua and Barbuda. We can reverse the roles of the recent past. Let us get to it!