December 21st, 2010
Honorable Stephenson King
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs, Economic Planning, National Development Prime Minister's Office
5th Floor, Graham Louisy Administrative Building Waterfront, Castries Saint Lucia, West Indies
We the farmers of Choiseul and other concerned citizens are deeply troubled because it is apparent that key policy-makers in this country are pursuing a vision of development that can result in a significant reduction in the availability of arable land with little or no concern for the food security of our country.
One such activity is the recent use of prime agricultural land in the Bongalo area for the establishment of residential units, with little regard for the livelihoods of farmers and the future generations.
During the past weeks, heavy equipment has been excavating soil from the Bongalo area for residential development. This area has proven to be one of the richest agricultural areas in Choiseul. In addition, it has a suitable topography for mechanization and has the potential for the application of new and improved technologies in protected agriculture, aquaculture and livestock production.
Whereas we understand the need for residential development, we are of the conviction that prime agricultural land should remain in agriculture. This is necessary for the sustainable increase in agricultural production and for the reduction of our reliance on imported food and simultaneously for a reduction in our food import bill.
A hostile environment for farmers and potential agricultural producers is being created by grabbing such productive resources, while there are sufficient marginal lands in Choiseul that can be used for residential development.
The agricultural sector continues to be a critical sector in the economy of Saint Lucia and although its contribution to GDP steadily declined from 1995 until 2005, it still continues to play a significant role in the country's socio-economic development. In 1995, for instance, the sector accounted for 10.6% of total GDP, compared with 3.11% in 2005. However, agriculture's contribution in 2009 stood at 4.17% which clearly indicates that the sector is again showing signs of playing a significant multi-functional role in earning foreign exchange, generating employment, and contributing towards economic growth and food security.
The passage of Hurricane Tomas and the resultant damage to the sector which provides a livelihood to a significant proportion of the population of Saint Lucia has increase the precarious living conditions of those persons already burdened with the challenges of poverty. Most importantly however, hurricane Tomas has increased the vulnerability of those persons whose life chances were dependent on the agricultural sector. It has moved them from the vulnerable, to be counted among the poor.
Most significantly, the erosion and loss of land on steep slopes due to the hurricane has clearly exposed the need for a land use plan and land zoning policy which can ensure a proper distribution of land for agriculture, housing, tourism and commercial development.
Therefore, the Bongolo area should be reserved for Agriculture for the following reasons:
1. Historically, the areas housed some of the most productive estates capable of producing a variety of crops and livestock.
2. The area is not prone to flooding and irrigation networks can be established and fed from rivers on the periphery of the area and by gravity from the Delcer, Choiseul irrigation facility.
3. Agricultural activities can easily be mechanized making such activities attractive to young and potential farmers.
4. The land is very suitable for protected agriculture, livestock and aquaculture production.
5. It offers an alternative to the large farming community of Fond St. Jacques which was devastated by landslides due to hurricane Tomas.
6. It can accommodate clusters of farmers which will enhance security and discourage praedial larceny.
As a result of all of the above, we the listed agricultural producers and concerned citizens below are appealing to you and your government to discontinue the said activity at the Bongalo area and declare it an agricultural area. It is equally important to fast track a zoning plan for St. Lucia to ensure that prime agricultural lands are not transformed into irreversible activities such as housing, and touristic and commercial development.
We therefore trust that you will use your good office to address this critical issue of national importance both for the present time and for generations to come.
We await your cooperation in the affirmative. Yours sincerely
Cc: Honourable Richard Frederick, Minister for Physical Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Local Government.
Honourable Ezechiel Joseph, Minister for Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Forestry.
Honourable Rufus George Bousquet, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Investment.
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