‘Myopic thinking will get us nowhere’ – Ali defends initiative to give land to Bajan farmers

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President Dr Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister Mia Mottley in LA, USA

President Dr Irfaan Ali has defended his decision to allocate several acres of land in Guyana to be utilised by farmers of Barbados as the two countries seek to push the regional food security agenda.

Whilst in Barbados in May for the Agro Fest Expo, the Guyanese Head of State announced that the Black Belly Sheep Initiative between the two Caribbean nations will be expanded so that Bajan youths would have access to lands in Guyana to boost production.

“We are setting aside 50 acres of land to be owned by young people as part of the Black Belly Sheep project in Guyana, 50 acres to be owned by persons with disability, 50 acres to be owned by single parents, women and importantly, 50 acres that will be owned by your young people here in Barbados,” President Ali had said, noting that the farms will be working together in an integrated way to supply the market in Barbados.

In further expanding on his vision, President Ali had explained that, “we are working on training your butchers here so that they can do the best cuts, and Barbados can work on creating that logistics hub of moving these products on along the market chain. These are the types of initiatives that will create a long-term sustainable relationship to what we are advancing and the path we are taking.”

However, following his announcements, several persons took to social media to criticise the initiative.

President Ali has since responded to those naysayers during a recent interactive session with members of the Guyanese diaspora in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Referencing the criticisms he saw on social media, President Ali pointed out that “when I went to Barbados, what I saw, I saw an entire parish where the farmers were Guyanese, where the farmers were given land by Barbados to farm…where the government of Barbados is investing in infrastructure to help them.”

According to President Ali, “myopic thinking will not take us anywhere”. He also warned that Guyana “cannot go forward as a loner”.

Earlier in his address to the Guyanese diaspora, President Ali had reasoned that Guyana must be known for its humility regardless of its oil wealth. This is a message the Guyanese Leader continues to emphasise. He had previously contended that the prosperity of Guyana translates to the prosperity of the entire Caribbean region.

Speaking to the growing relationship between Guyana and Barbados, President Ali recalled the “enormous” and “lifechanging” support he has received from Prime Minister Mia Mottley since his ascension to the Office of the President of Guyana.

President Ali referred to Motley as a symbol of “strength” and “humility”, noting that these are the types of leaders Guyana must surround itself with.

He explained that his vision is to create a movement where “the people of this region, wherever you are, must be proud to be part of this region…the people of this region must see themselves connected to each other.”

“We must not race to see who is better than each other,” President Ali posited, noting that regional leaders must work to create “win/win” situations for all of its peoples.

And this, he indicated, is what he and PM Mottley have been doing.

“We don’t spend so much time together, Prime Minister Mottley and I, because we like to lime…90% of the time we spend with each other is to strategise on what to do next,” President Ali explained.

He had previously noted that the model that Barbados and Guyana is building can be replicated for success across the entire region. He had previously cautioned that for this approach to be successful, countries in the region cannot see themselves as competitors.

“We have to see ourselves as a singular collective, a singular partner working together for one common goal and vision, that is, to give the best possible opportunity to the people of our country, to bring prosperity to the people of our country, to put food on the tables of our people in this Region at a less cost – at a sustainable cost and in a much healthier fashion,” President Ali had said.