Photo caption- “Ifyou ate today- thank a farmer.”
Farming- A noble profession?
One of the greatest hurdles of agricultural advocacy is convincing people to see the importance of farmers. It’s not as thrilling as the stories of helping refugees crossing the Mediterranean for a better life or stopping female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa but in many ways, it is just as important because it impacts us on a daily basis. To some, farming may not even be considered a profession, and to many it may just be a trade passed down from generation to generation for survival. Today, most farmers discourage their own children from following suit because it has become less and less economically rewarding.
While this is not only a problem in St. Lucia, what worries me is that- with fewer and fewer people involved in agricultural production, the less control we have in the foods that we are consuming on a daily basis. Think of the number of diseases transmitted through food or the number of times that GMO foods have been linked to cancer or terminal illnesses. Food is one of the main preventive treatments in healthcare and yet we rely increasingly on exported foods (whose production modes are questionable) and less and less on local producers.
More so, when one-fifth of the population feel that their profession is undermined and their place in society lays in the outliers, it would be logical to see why most are straying away from farming. But with a food-import bill that we genuinely cannot afford, continuing down this path can only lead to higher food prices and a larger number of St. Lucians going hungry every day. So, what can truly change the perception of what a farmer represents? Foreign partners like Taiwan are the blueprint- with 24% of Taiwan’s land used for farming, and agriculture as one of its main industries, Taiwan’s agricultural sector contributes significantly to its economy and it has even been referred to as the Silicon Valley of Agriculture, in reference to their increasing use of technology in farming. But it all starts with perception- if our farmers are respected for their value- which is ensuring food security, improving food costs and guaranteeing healthy outputs while ensuring them a stable income, only then can we see an increase of persons entering the agricultural sector. Think of it this way- “If you ate today, thank a farmer.”
*Helen’s Daughters is a St. Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity-building. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program.
To learn more about the initiative, you can visit:
Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/helensdaughters.slu/),