A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Consultant has made a call for the introduction of legislation with “teeth” in relation to the proposed Sustainable Agricultural Development Bill.
Speaking at a recent forum organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss the Bill, Professor Frank Alleyne, stated: “The legislation should require the licensing of persons in particular fields of activity. We need an act which has teeth. Legislation governing the livestock sector also needs teeth, there is currently too much volunteerism.”
Professor Alleyne was addressing the policy issues relating to Land Use Planning and Control; Water Resources and Management; Agricultural Inventions; Good Agricultural Practices, and Traceability.
In terms of the land issue, he called for the establishment of an Idle Lands Authority aimed at returning arable land to agriculture. Such an Authority, he said, should target lands of up to five acres, for a subsequent lease arrangement to farmers. In this vein, he also underlined the need for the strengthening of farming organisations to ensure a greater lobby for farmers.
With regard to irrigation and water resources, the FAO representative admitted that there were some problems with availability, which has resulted in Barbados being deemed a “water scarce nation”. He noted that while most of the population had access to potable water, the ground water sources are becoming increasingly taxed due to increasing demands for domestic, agricultural, industrial and other purposes.
“It is important that we find some legislative muscle to induce the farming community to buy into good farming practices since these are fundamental to agricultural sustainability,” Professor Alleyne advised.
Legal Consultant, George Sarpong, in giving an overview of the legal framework governing the four areas said the legislation would seek to foster transparency; provide sanctions for violations; promote effective and efficient control of the agricultural regime; and promote Good Agricultural Practices.
He suggested the establishment of an Agricultural Incentives Committee to ensure transparency in the operation of agricultural sector incentives, and a thorough grievance procedure for dissatisfied applicants.