(by Nazima Raghubir)
“We have neglected our family farmers,” Dr Deep Ford, of the Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged when he delivered the first presentation examining family farming at Caribbean Week of Agriculture in Suriname. CWA which opened under the theme “Transforming Caribbean Agriculture through Family Farming” will examine ways and means to encourage the return to family farming in the face of a rising food import bill the Caribbean has been saddled with. Dr Ford in his presentation to officials, farmers and other agriculture experts said that there is a need to register farmers across the region, this he believes will capture the farmers in the net of policy making. Asked to expand on this recommendation to register farmers, Dr Ford explained they need to be registered for many reasons and he identified praedial larceny as an important one.
“It is the greatest disincentive to farming across the region, 90% of the farmers, say they don’t want to invest because they are not sure they would be able to reap the harvest of their efforts. So we need to register them so we can build for instance a praedial larceny policy that is targeted. We can’t say that the police must protect all the farms across all the countries if they are not registered, we don’t know if pineapples that are going to be harvested in this particular location at a particular time of the week so we can liaise with the police and we can say to them, we have 25 farmers in this location who need your protection this week.”
Dr Ford pointed out that policy makers need to know who they are supporting as another reason for this registration of farmers. He tied this to the need for farming insurance adding that if policy makers are going to draft a way forward on insurance for farming land they will need to know who they are representing.
“For instance we are going to subsidise 50% of the policy to the insurance companies, 50% for medium and large scale commercial farmers and 80% for small farmers but we don’t know them so we have to register them. So registration is critical to any policy we are going to put in place.”
In this presentation this morning, Dr Ford said that data compiled by the FAO suggests that 90% of farms in the region are less than five acres, less than 25% of household income comes from farming, 50% of small farms homes have five persons with some 56% of farms owned by farmers.