Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


An Integrated Framework for Sustainable Agriculture Development

(Basil G.F. Springer)


I must begin by thanking FAO and CTA for inviting me to this Consultation as one of the resource persons from the Caribbean. It is my first visit to Samoa and hence it is a new experience for me. Thank you all for the kind and warm hospitality.

Since I am not an agriculture expert, I should state my link with agriculture. My background is in mathematics, statistics and biometrics. I worked as a biometrician with the University of the West Indies for six years, which cemented my alliance with agriculture. I then worked briefly with FAO as a Regional Statistician, before embarking on a career as a management consultant. I have been doing this with the private sector firm, Systems Caribbean Limited (SCL), which I established and which has been growing for the last 18 years. Over that period we have been involved with many agricultural projects.

We adopt a problem solving approach. Our services include organizational renewal, integrated planning, market research, and information technology. We provide services to public and private sectors. Our Region is from Belize (Central America) to Guyana (South America), and we are about to extend these services to other African, Caribbean and Pacific States. We have a consultant based in South Africa and would like to develop strategic alliances in the South Pacific.

Our interest among other sectors is in sustainable agricultural development. If a specific economic growth rate can be achieved and exceeded year by year, relative to the population growth rate, while protecting the environment, then we are on the road to sustainable development.


The integrated framework consists of seven components: global market orientation; private sector development; human resource development; smart partnership philosophy; innovative funding mechanisms; environmental protection; and project management.

If these components are developed in harmony, then the chances of sustainable agricultural development are significantly increased.

Global market orientation

An agricultural diversification policy today implies identifying global niche markets. Local and regional markets are not large enough to support sustainable development. We must convince a buyer in the global market to buy from our country. Here is an example of agriculture in Barbados. It is a generic strategy which applies to other sectors as well as other countries.

- buyer identifies who is the largest fresh produce distributor to supermarkets in a given country;
- buyer identifies the sources of supply of various fresh agricultural commodities all over the world;
- project coordinator in Barbados, who is seeking to develop the agricultural export trade talks to the "buyer" about sourcing commodities from Barbados;
- buyer agrees to send his technical director to Barbados to identify commodities and assess the agricultural environment;
- technical director recommends commodities which have potential in Barbados, as well as windows of market opportunity in which the trade can develop;
- technical coordinator in Barbados selects one commodity (for example, melon) for pilot project and agrees on the types of melon and the preferred (by supermarket consumer) varieties of each melon type;
- technical coordinator in Barbados visits buyer's facility in market country to learn all about the melon line (e.g. appearance, packaging, labelling, quality, price and handling);
- melon seed is sourced and technical coordinator sets up a pilot project with participating farmer to test varieties under commercial production conditions. Best known agronomic package of practices is used and the varieties are tested at more than one spacing. (Melon information was researched including surfing the Internet);
- melons are harvested and exported to buyer, carefully identifying the melons by type and variety. Buyer's technical director reports to technical coordinator on the suitability of melons for market and commercial production is then planned for the favourable types and variety by window of market opportunity.

Tourism is the leading sector in the Caribbean. Tourism linkages present an opportunity, which will grow rapidly.

SCL has been involved in linkage studies for ten years. Now it is time for action and we are conducting a pilot project for a number of commodity areas: agro-processed and paper products; sun-barrier products; solar water heaters; handicraft; furniture and colour printing.

This project facilitates Regional suppliers to sell to tourism service providers (long-stay and cruise ship visitors) in order to displace imports from extra-regional countries thus, saving foreign exchange, increasing employment and utilizing natural resources more effectively.
Here is an example of a tourism agriculture linkage opportunity that was accessed in the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. Five years ago a 400-room hotel was built on Nevis, which was by far the biggest hotel on the island.

The Ministry of Agriculture seized the opportunity to provide a link with the local farmer and the hotel. They established a marketing unit to facilitate the trade of locally produced fresh agricultural commodities. The steps in the process were as follows:

- Marketing Unit (MU) obtained orders by commodity from hotel;
- MU planned production with farmers;
- MU advanced funds to farmers for production inputs;
- farmers produced;
- farmers harvested as directed by MU;
- MU delivered produce to hotel;
- hotel pays MU;
- MU pays farmers less deductions for funds advanced for production inputs;
- the cycle then continues.

There are many examples like this in the Caribbean where the Government, farmers' organizations or farmers have taken the initiative to access opportunities from a growing tourism sector.

SCL conducted National Case Studies for FAO on the linkages between tourism and agriculture in Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in 1992-93. This was the first time that studies of this nature were written from the point of view of tourism market demand rather than from the point of view of agricultural production. In particular, a profile of the market requirements of the hotel and restaurant industries was presented.

Private sector development

The Private sector in the Caribbean traditionally had an importing culture as commission agents. A new production/processing/marketing culture must be developed in response to the agricultural market-driven opportunity in exports, hotels, restaurants, institutions and supermarkets.

The management of change to enhance profitability is a major challenge for the private sector. The private sector is driven by profitability and will respond to strategies that will lead to an increase in size of business, an increase in productivity and measures to contain costs.

Human resource development

Our people are our greatest asset. Increased productivity leads to increased competitiveness. This can be achieved by optimal combinations of people and technology. Our people must be developed to the fullest as we aim for excellence to complete with suppliers of service in the rest of the world.

Appropriate training courses must be developed which are short-term, high impact, experiential and interactive to respond to the immediate need for training. Long training courses have their place but do not respond to immediate needs.

I participated in preparing a proposal training at the International Labour Organisation Training Centre in Turin, Italy, in November 1995. A market-driven training programme was prepared and problems of trade in the private sector were identified and training programmes designed to alleviate these problems. Funding is currently being sought for this relatively innovative approach.
Another feature of this Turin exercise was that it included participants from small states in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Caribbean. The design of the training programme was done in the spirit of sustainable sub-regional cooperation. There will be training nodes in every sub-region and there will be interchangeability of resource persons delivery programmes over the three sub-regions.

The programme used technology (computer assisted learning) to develop course material for training throughout the agricultural system. Another concept in human resource development is performance-based compensation, where performance indicators are used as a means of determining the compensation package for individuals.

Smart Partnership philosophy

There is an international drive by the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management and the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology to promote the "Smart Partnership" philosophy as the management practice of the future. A smart partnership is a partnership between Government and the private sector; a partnership within government; a partnership between private sector entities; or similar partnerships between countries which are designed to create synergy and result in a "win-win" situation. The roles of the partners are as follows:

- the public sector is the engine of policy change;
- the private sector is the engine of economic growth;
- "best brains" sector must provide innovative ideas and research;
- the trade unions must work with employers to develop employee productivity.

Development of the smart partnership philosophy took place at the Langkawi International Dialogue in Malaysia in July 1995. There is a Barbados International Dialogue to take place in Barbados 26-27 June, 1996, where the focus will be on smart partnership in small states. This is being organized by CPTM and SCL. Then there is a second and larger Langkawi International Dialogue in Malaysia in July 1996.

Innovative funding mechanisms

Venture capital is needed to support private sector initiatives. Some risk must be taken by government at the national level - since benefits in foreign exchange, employment and use of national resources accrue to the nation. After this developmental assistance is given, then the private sector will support the industry at steady state, until the point of financial self-sufficiency is reached. The yield from aid sources is less than before, hence we must reduce dependency on aid.

Environmental protection

At the UN Global Conference of Small Island Development States, held in Barbados in 1994, there was an NGO Forum Exhibition "The Village of Hope". Exhibits depicted environmental decay (The Horror) if nothing was done; and environmental protection (The Hope) if special action was taken. There were hundreds of quality exhibits, 3 000 volunteer were involved, 45 000 paid to go through over a two-week period and school children were involved. There were many complimentary accolades from the international community. The Future Centre Trust has been established in Barbados to perpetuate the concept of the "Village of Hope". The Trust's Mission is: "To create a permanent centre for sustainability and promote Barbados as a role model to save the planet Earth". The cover of our next Barbados telephone directory (1996-97) will be dedicated to the Future Centre Trust. The theme will be: "We did not inherit the earth from our forefathers, we borrowed it from our children". This reinforces the fact that we are only the caretakers of the resources which we own or are within our care.

Project management

The final component within our integrated framework is project management. As we seek to expand our economies, the project manager's role is to identify projects to increase trade and its rate of growth. Each project identified, must be researched leading to a feasibility study on the viability of the venture.

An integrated planning process must be adopted which consists of strategic planning, operational planning and results management. Information systems must be developed to facilitate decision making. Institutional strengthening must be introduced in context of smart partnership where the social partners are involved in the management of the country at the national level and the sectoral level. Thank you very much for the opportunity to share the above thoughts with you.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page