The multi-island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a rich history grounded in agriculture production.
Like all other islands in the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines through European conquest and colonisation became a producer of agricultural raw material for export.
Arrowroot and Banana have a post-emancipation background.
Arrowroot was once a commodity of widespread cultivation. Factories were located throughout the country and this labour intensive industry contributed to our national development.
The arrowroot industry also gives SVG an opportunity for a unique blend of agriculture and heritage tourism development.
Arrowroot based foods such as our madungo bakes and fungi are precious Jems waiting to be discovered by food connoisseurs. I have been knocking on doors with this package and will not depart from it until we explore this possibility for further rural tourism development.
Very soon a “Vincy Madungo Festival” could be the next big vacation event to lure travellers from near and far.
In a nutshell, the decline of arrowroot cultivation in SVG began when competitive, industrialized alternative methods of papermaking. Today the government maintains one factory in Owia to the northeast of the island producing some 100,000lbs of starch annually.
This represents a significant increase over 2010 figures of 20,000 lbs but it still sits in the shadow of the 1970s data.
At that juncture, we can identify a shift from A (arrowroot) to B (bananas). The average 35-45-year-old could not envisage that in their lifetime they would see the transition from bananas as a main cash crop to another commodity.
My banana was it!! Many of us grew up in SVG to morning and evening radio jingles echoing the lyrics of “Banana Man…”. The Banana Industry at its peak in the early 1990s brought $100m to the island’s shores.
During that era, Banana was widely regarded as “green gold”. However, trade liberalisation and the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Banana Case led to the demise of the industry. Since then efforts to revive the Banana Industry on the island have been crippled by diseases, climate change and the increased, industrialized competition from multi-national corporations.
The island’s Minister of Agriculture Hon. Saboto Caesar maintains that bananas will always have a role to play in the island’s agriculture sector, but other commodities such as root crops, cocoa, coffee and cattle are added areas for growth and expansion.
I further submit, that a High C- cannabis added to the other Cs of cocoa, coffee and cattle will be the future for agriculture in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Medicinal cannabis Industry has the potential to significantly transform the rural and urban economies of the entire country. We can expect to see an explosion of new jobs and business opportunities touching every sector of the Vincentian economy emerging from our homegrown cannabis.
Quite fortuitously, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently came to face to face with this new reality. In late 2017 the agency stopped short of giving a green light for medical marijuana consumption. However, in a December 14th, 2017 article published by UK’s The Independent newspaper stated the following.
The media source further quoted the WHO, adding that; “Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions and that it “is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids”.
We ought not expect a full declaration before we act and benefit from the positives of the marijuana plant.
Notwithstanding the potential for short, medium and long term benefits, cannabis cultivation, and those who faced the risks associated with its cultivation, were forced to operate in an underground economy.
The unregulated environment was often marred with unprofessional behavior. The efforts, especially by the Rastafari community, to create a distinction between cannabis cultivation andbehaviourasive drug trade remained an uphill task for decades.
Therefore, the transition from A, to B, and now C is not expected to be one of smooth sailing. It will not be as easy as 1,2,3. It was difficult to ask arrowroot farmers in the first instance to plant bananas. This too will be the case for the medicinal cannabis industry.
Believe it or not however, SVG has an excellent 10 years window to harness the full potential of this opportunity before it becomes the subject of globalization. SVG is ripe for investment today in the medicinal cannabis industry.