Eyewitness: Security…in food


The push for food security in the Caribbean is kinda ironic when you think about it, ain’t it? Weren’t the Amerindians Columbus stumbled over, eating and living? We know for a fact they ate very balanced diets and didn’t complain about food security. For fruits (and vitamins) they had pineapples, mammee, sapodilla, star apples, genips, guavas, and cashews etc. They cultivated maize (corn) on a large scale with cassava, sweet potatoes and yautia etc as staples. They made cassava flour and cassava bread. For meat, they ate all sorts of small animals that were grilled, baked, or used in “pepper-pot” with cassareep the main flavour!!

But our problems came when the Europeans insisted these folks who’d co-existed for millennia with their environment were “uncivilized” and everything about them was to be discarded. Including them – who were soon wiped out. The Europeans did things “their way” – including the foods they ate. And as they brought waves of enslaved Africans and indentured Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, etc, European’s tastes became the “civilized” tastes and as such was desired by those who wanted to be “with it” and move up!!
In terms food most comes from plants and in another ironic twist, our entire existence in the modern global system was because of agriculture!! We were shanghaied to pioneer this earliest of human endeavour on an industrial scale! So what happened? Well, the Europeans decided we’d produce those peripheral crops like sugar cane, tobacco, and spices – while importing most consumable food from Europe – to keep their farmers working!!

Now all of this we already know: hadn’t Burnham and Manley struck their leftist pose and decided we were going to feed ourselves?? They were talking about “food security” before there was “food insecurity”?? Not really!! They were reacting to their economies collapsing like houses of cards and they just didn’t have the foreign exchange to import the foods we’d been weaned on. And craved. After all it wasn’t apocryphal that Burnham cried out for “condensed milk” on his death bed, was it??

Anyhow while there’s nothing wrong about growing our own food and moving off “foreign foods” what they attempted was an ancient economic notion called “autarky”! That is you must be completely self-sufficient and become an island (no pun intended!!) unto yourself!! This had been discredited by the “free trade” theory where you concentrate on things where you have (and can acquire) a comparative advantage – produce and export those things – then use the foreign exchange earned to buy whatever other things you desired!!
But we never learn. So we now have Jamaican MP Lisa Hannah pointing out that they’re producing irish potato all right – but at EIGHT TIMES the imported price!! And we’re following suit!!


…of mind

It’s said that every man’s home is his castle – with the expectation that he’s gonna be left in peace to do as he pleases there. But even though the Middle Ages are long gone and one would’ve thought folks using battering rams to break into castles were over and done with, from the eighties we had our “kick-down-the-door-bandits”. Inspired by the PNC’s terroristic onslaught on the citizenry to keep them cowed for Burnham’s dictatorship. That’s left a lasting legacy of windows and doors grated with steel bars so most Guyanese actually live voluntarily in JAILS!! But there still isn’t security of mind in the grated castles – witness reports of folks regularly burglarized and even killed.

But now, there’s another irony – with oil revenues pouring in and our GDP the fastest growing in the WORLD, who’d think at folks are living from paycheck-to-paycheck?? But it does take some time for the economy to adjust to our 14.5% take of the oil profits, doesn’t it??
Sadly, there’s no way around that.

…of tenure

How come UG’s been around for almost 60 years and their graduates can barely read and comprehend beyond primary school level?? Cause the staff has the security of tenure where they are never evaluated and can’t be fired!!