The Grenada government is strongly supporting two initiatives designed to bring more land under agricultural production, a local monthly newspaper has reported.
Barnacle, in its June edition, said that both initiatives involve the renting or leasing of idle farm land.
The paper quotes Ferron Lowe, policy advisor in the Ministry of Agriculture, as saying that a “substantial amount of land” that once was under cultivation in Grenada is now “abandoned and underutilized.”
He said government is offering to act as a mediator between owners of abandoned or underutilized agricultural fields, and Grenadians who are desirous of working the land.
The Ministry of Agriculture, under the National Democratic Congress administration of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, is encouraging private land owners, who can no longer cultivate their lands, to rent or lease them to people interested in doing so, Lowe said.
“The ministry will not be directly involved but will facilitate the relationship between private land owners and the renters,” explained Lowe, a lawyer and farmer. “Both parties can seek independent legal advice to come up with a workable agreement.”
The idea was developed, said Lowe, with the recognition that around the nation, there were lots of abandoned lands sitting idly with cocoa and nutmeg tress on them, but having no one to attend to them.
“This is not an initiative by government to tell you what to do with your land,” Lowe said in reference to farm land owners.
“This is just another avenue that is open to you, in the event that you want to get back something from these lands, and you don’t intend to sell them. It is quite possible that there is someone out there and – in particular – some young person or some group of young persons – who may be willing to rent the land from you. And if so,” added the policy advisor, “we can contact those individuals and let them be in touch with you and to get that system going. It’s as simple as that. Of course, if that happens, it will boost agriculture.”
Acting Chief Agricultural Officer, Daniel Lewis, described as a “pervasive misconception,” claims that “young people are not inclined to get involved in agriculture.”
The real and serious “limiting factor,” said Lewis, is “access to land.”
Another leasing arrangement the government is working on is a Windward Islands’ project that is supported by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. It calls for the establishment of land banks in Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica.
The land banks, which would “lay the foundation for managing land in an efficient manner,” should be set up later this year, Lewis said.
“We need to put back a lot of the idle lands in Grenada into active production,” said Lewis, “and we think that is one of the main ways in which we can see a serious increase in production of our agricultural crops. In so doing, we enhance our food security; and it’s a real possibility for foreign exchange generation though exports and value addition.”
Under the land banks project, farmers will be involved in an “all-encompassing program” of training that will include the imparting of skills in areas such as finance and marketing, Lewis said.