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Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Inclusion and incorporation in agricultural production : the case of young Vincentians
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081705/00001
 Material Information
Title: Inclusion and incorporation in agricultural production : the case of young Vincentians
Series Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Glesne, Corrine
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: South America -- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines -- Caribbean
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Bibliographic ID: UF00081705
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
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Full Text

St_ tH rwthersity of10riaa
Conference on

Inclusion and Incorporation in Agricultural Production:

The Case of Young Vincentians

Corrine Glesne

Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Reports which generalize to the Eastern Caribbean as a whole

picture a grim future for agriculture in the region. Although

three-fourths of the Caribbean population is estimated to be

under 35 (Census Research Programme, 1975), the average Caribbean

farmer is around 50 years old (Zuvekas, 1978). Young people are

reputedly attracted by urban employment opportunities and

repelled by agricultural pursuits because of the association of

farming with slavery, hard work, and low economic rewards.

This paper, using the case of St. Vincent, challenges the

notion that agricultural pursuits are unattractive to young

Vincentians. It suggests that young adults, men and women,

participate in agriculture in greater numbers than are generally

recognized and that structural constraints are more important

than attitudinal in preventing greater participation. While

recognizing that education does not solve socio-political

problems, this paper explores the possible contributions of

education as a means to better incorporate the young into the

agricultural sector.

For half a year in 1981, I worked with the government of St.

Vincent and the Grenadines on an agricultural extension project.

- 1 -

Then, for a year, I lived in a fertile rural valley with a long

history of estate domination. Through familiarity with the

general Caribbean literature, I expected to find a country where

young people shunned agriculture. My perusal of Vincentian

agricultural statistics and discussions with some governmental

officials supported this view. According to the 1973 Vincentian

agricultural census (the most recent figures available), only 47

farm operators were under 35 years of age in 1972 compared to

2,093 in 1961 (Misistry of Trade and Agriculture, 1978). The

total number of farm operators in 1972 was 7,794, which was 3,556

farm operators less than in 1961. It would appear that people,

particularly young people, were not taking up farming. When

asked about the interrelationship of agriculture and young

people, many government officials responded with the pessimistic

viewpoint of "they just lazy," "the work is too hard," or "such

work is considered poor man's work."

Participant observation and in-depth interviews, however,

revealed young men and women, from rural areas and from town,

working land under a variety of arrangements, accompanied by a

variety of constraints, motivations, and attitudes. In one rural

area, the children of parents who had "made it" in a

banana-producing valley moved onto a government-acquired estate

before a distribution plan was designed. Many of these

squatters, ranging between the ages of 25 and 40, are now

prosperous farmers themselves. Interviewees indicated that

- 2 -

farming may be viewed more positively now than in the past. As

one stated, "Five years ago I would have said young people were

moving away from agriculture, but now they see there is a lot of

money to be had from the land." Although I have learned to place

little faith in Caribbean census figures, another section

supported the notion that agricultural rejection is not as total

as commonly described. When "dependents" were combined with

"farm operators," there appeared to be 6,453 monr people involved

in these categories of agricultural work in 1972 than in 1961.

When "other unpaid" and "paid workers" were included in the

figures, the number of people working the land in 1961 (25,084)

was only slightly higher than the number for 1972 (24,405). The

major decrease in farming participants over time was in the

number of paid workers; the greatest increase was in the number

of farm operators and dependents. My work suggests that young

men and women play a significant role in both these decreases and


Three main conditions seem to promote a somewhat favorable

attitude towards agriculture on the island. First, unlike the

coral or flatter islands, the Vincentian mountains create

conditions for ample rainfall. The rainfall and the rich

volcanic soil provide fertile ground for growing a wide variety

of produce. Second, agriculture is one of the few means

available for creating a livelihood;. Despite efforts to increase

the industrial and tourism sectors, they remain relatively

- 3 -

undeveloped. Third, farming can be. economically viable. In

1979, 95 percent of the nation's exports were agricultural

products (Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development, 1980).

Stated an interviewee,

People in this valley know that a bag of eddoes may
fetch $180 [U.S. $873 and are encouraged by that.
Those who have the lands will tell you they won't work
for anyone else.

The potential gain along with the lack of alternatives makes it

common wisdom in rural areas that "to make money, you must stick

something in the ground."

These conditions--fertile land, lack of employment

alternatives, and potential gain--are favorable for increased

agricultural development. Constraints, however, deter changes.

Advisory reports, extension personnel, and the farmers themselves

frequently mention problems associated with marketing,

transportation of produce, peak season labor demands, access to

inputs, agronomic techniques, and the use of appropriate

varieties. Policy makers rarely accompany recommendations for

overcoming agricultural constraints with either a class or gender

analysis. The problems such analyses uncover are difficult to


Analysis by class demonstates the blatant role of land tenure.

Around 78 percent of the holdings in St. Vincent are under 5

acres in size. The remaining 22 percent, however, account for

around 78 percent of the cultivated land (LeFranc, 1980). In

- 4 -

other words, most of the farm holdings are small, but most of the

land is still held by private or government estates. Typical

project work directs attention towards the small land holder

group. In doing so, it prides itself on assisting those that

need help. In reality, the projects ignore a possibly larger,

and definitely poorer, group of people. The rural areas contain

a continuum of socioeconomic classes.

On the ignored end of the continuum are those I term the

"static poor." They come from households with little, if any,

land. The young people, in their early to mid-twenties, tend to

live with kin, often, if female, with a child or two of their

own. The house does not contain a refrigerator, is not wired for

electricity, and frequently has no water piped indoors. Those in

the household have not had secondary schooling and do not hold

salaried jobs. To make money, men participate in various trade

work such as masonry, carpentry, or mechanics. They are truck

hands, van conductors, and drivers. They also work sharecropped,

family, or mountain land, and, if they must, do agricultural

labor for pay. Women are domestics, work in factories, work

sharecropped or family land, and also participate as agricultural


The static poor identify their lack of access to land as the

primary constraint to increased agricultural participation.

"Some willing, but they ain't got the land," stated one

interviewee. Said another, "Those who have land, work it, and

- 5 -

can do for themselves. Those who don't, have it rough." At

anywhere from $700 an acre for mountain land to $7000 an acre for

the flatter land, few are able to purchase land through work in

St. Vincent. Generally, one most go "outside" to Trinidad, United

States, or Canada and there earn enough to return and "set

oneself up."

Those without education, land,- capital, or migration

opportunities have few options. In the past, these people have

been the estate workers, the agricultural laborers. The children

have observed that their parent's or guardian's hard work did not

necessarily bring material wealth or even household security.

They therefore reject agricultural labor for psychological and

economic reasons, preferring to do nothing rather than "slavin"

by working land for another person and receiving little for their

effort. As one interviewee stated, "My father worked on the

estate for over 40 years and to the end, he received nothing. I

would not do that. I'd rather Ebe3 dead." These are the people

who contribute to the decrease in the number of paid workers

reported in the agricultural census. These are the people who

are said to be rejecting agriculture as a way of life. Their

rejection is understandable.

Farther along on the socioeconomic continuum are those I call

the "mobile poor" and then the more middle-class Vincentian. Many

have received formal education beyond the primary level. They

tend to come from households that owned land and contained both

- 6 -

parents. As young adults, they frequently live away from their

childhood residence and are either married or on their own. The

households have piped water, electricity, and refrigerators. A

few own cars or motorbikes. The young people hold salaried jobs,

but many also work land. They may own land, control family land,

or even sharecrop. They do not do agricultural labor. The young

adults of this "better-off" group are not estate owners, big

business people, or government ministers. They are, however,

more likely than the other group to receive the attention of

assistance and educational agencies.

Both men and women work land, sharing some tasks and dividing

up others. Gender analysis points out several.constraints that

are particular to women. According to the statistics available,

women comprise around 46 percent of the farm operators and

dependents, 41 percent of the "other unpaid workers," and 40

percent of the "paid workers" (Ministry of Trade and Agriculture,

1978). Women participate in the various modes of tenure. They

own land, control family land, rent, sharecrop, and labor for

others. Although agency personnel recognize the role women play

in agriculture--the 1982 farmer of the year was a woman--they

tend to invite primarily men to seminars and workshops on

agricultural production. Educational programs concerning

nutrition, cooking with indigenous products, or kitchen gardening

are considered more appropriate for the so-called "farmer's

wife." The term "farmer's wife" signifies again the importance

- 7 -

of class. Generally, only the "better off" are married.

Although "better-off" women do own or control land, they are more

likely than men in equivalent positions to hire workers full-time

and to only infrequently participate in the labor themselves.

Nutrition and cooking are of interest to these women (as well as

to the poorer women), but use of pesticides or management

techniques would also be relevant. In any case, all programs

ignore the woman who must share-crop or hire out her labor just

as they ignore the man who must do so.

The culturally and physically acceptable division of

agricultural tasks place poorer women who sharecrop or work small

plots of family land at a disadvantage to men. Men will weed, a

job frequently done by women, but women rarely clear land or dig

banks. Therefore, if a woman is without a man to assist her, she

is dependent upon having money to hire labor at particular

times. This labor pattern limits the woman's productivity and

foreshadows future difficulties. For a number of young men, the

hard physical work involved in clearing land and digging banks is

a disincentive to working land. To lessen the drudgery, various

development groups are experimenting with mechanization

appropriate to steep Vincentian hillsides. If women do not take

part in the use of developed equipment, men's clearing and

digging work may be eased and their status potentially raised,

while neither the woman's role nor her tasks will change. She

will still have to hire men to prepare her land and will probably

- 8 -

have to pay more because of the machine.

Structural constraints, particularly land tenure arrangements,

prevent greater participation in agriculture by the rural poor.

Accepting the need for national and international policy changes,

I turn now to the role education plays in incorporating the young

into agriculture.

Reports and policy makers both blame the education sector as

the villain and hold it up as the savior for the supposed decline

in agricultural participation by the young. The schools

reportedly do not prepare their pupils for agricultural work--but

they .could; they reportedly inclucate a negative attitude toward

working the soil--but they crald establish a positive attitude.

Policy makers and development personnel also recognize economic

factors, but here too they call upon the educational sector,

formal and nonformal, to help transform traditional island

horticulture into a scientific business.

The debate over whether an agricultural curriculum should or

should not be a part of formal education dates back to the 1840's

and the formation of the first post-emancipation schools.

Planters and colonial officials saw training in agriculture as

particularly beneficial for white planters' sons and potential

managers, but also important for altering the attitudes of black

youth towards agriculture. A statement made in Joseph

Chamberlain's Circular Dispatch in 1899 concerning the

- 9 -

development of apprenticeship agricultural schools does not sound

that different from arguments heard today:

...to have the entire youth of an agricultural
country intellectually trained in an atmosphere
favourable of agriculture, that they should grow up
interested in it, and that they should learn that there
is very much in it which is worthy of being studied by
an intelligent mind, and that agricultural work is not
"fit for slaves." (in Gordon, 1963, p142).

Despite several abortive attempts, agricultural science did not

become a part of primary and junior secondary school curriculum

until the launching of Sputnik in the 1950's when international

agencies made science education money available. Many of the

classes, however, are book-oriented due to the lack of garden

space, equipment, facilities, and trained teachers. Secondary

schools do not offer courses in agriculture, preparing students

instead for bureaucratic positions. As a young man in town


EYoung people are not interested in working the
lands] because the type of education they received was
not geared to working the lands. I attended primary
and secondary school and was taught nothing about
agriculture. I don't know how to work the lands, I was
never taught. That's why I find the country is not
progressing because you have to have education to agree
with the economy. The educational system is geared for
those to work in offices, not for agriculture which is
our main source of economy. I don't think it's
degrading, but we were never given the opportunity to
work the land.

Who is attending school and what difference that attendance

makes may be the real issue rather than the curriculum. Sixteen

percent of the primary school students go on to secondary school

- 10 -

(Ministry of Education, 1981). In the rural area where I worked,

only six percent were so fortunate. Those who come from

wealthier households and supportive guardians obtain the most

schooling and reap the economic and social rewards. Since sons

and daughters of laborers and sharecroppers generally do not

partake of these rewards, the schools, as schools most

everywhere, maintain the social structure.

Yet a secondary education does not preclude one's participation

in agriculture and may even contribute to positive attitudes

towards working land. An increasing number of people with

secondary and higher education and with access to land appear to

be choosing to complement their salaried jobs with agricultural

work. Repeatedly I heard of teachers, government employees, and

even lawyers involved in agriculture:

Presently most people who work the lands like
themselves for doing it and others admire it. This has
changed from the past when those who worked the lands
were looked upon as not being fit to do anything else.
People who have professions have started taking up
agriculture and that's being passed on to others.
Years ago you have only one set of people who work the
lands. Nowadays everyone trying to grow a little

This could foreshadow the development of a new breed of educated

farmer with potential to serve an organizing, educating role in

the rural communities. However, if access to land remains

difficult for the poor, this new group may develop into a

middle-class level of farmer and actually decrease the welfare of

the poor by not only competing for land and capital, but also

- 11 -

through priority access to marketing organizations and new

information. In the meantime, the participation of the more

educated in agriculture appears to be affecting the overall

attitude towards working land, lending optimism to governmental

efforts at nation building through the agricultural sector.

The formal education system plays a very limited role in

transmitting agricultural skills and information. Most young

agriculturalists learn about working land on a one-to-one basis,

frequently from a family member or a long-time farmer, but also

through the over-extended agricultural extension-type workers.

As interviewees stated, "I learn most times from someone showing

me. The more I talk with people, the more I learn, but sometimes

I don't meet the right person."

Recognizing the inefficiency of one-to-one contact between

extension workers and farmers, agricultural organizations have

turned attention towards group meetings. Ideally, the extension

officer services an extant group with information when available

or needed. In reality, many extension workers create their own

farmers' groups in the area for which they are responsible. The

group inevitable becomes associated with and dependent upon that

worker. If Jaminson were the extension agent for a region,

1. The Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, Banana Growers'
Association, and Organization for Rural Development all include
extension-type workers in their operations.

- 12 -

farmers would say, "There's going to be a Jaminson meeting

tonight." Although group meetings are open to anyone, the least

educated--the laborers and sharecroppers--are the least likely to

attend. They assert that "It's the same people running things."

Insecurity may be a part of their hesitation to get involved.

They may sense that they'd have little control over discussions

or decisions. Perhaps, also, the interests of the group are not

that applicable to them. Groups may assist with information

distribution and idea stimulation, but do not include all.

Those who work the land also learn through trial and error.

After years of laboring for pay, Calvin arranged to sharecrop

several acres. With partial instruction, rumor, and his mistakes

to guide the way, he assisted crops through their complete cycle

for the first time in his life. His years of agricultural work

had been limited to clearing land, digging banks, and following

instructions without making agricultural decisions of his own.

Few learn to be better farmers through reading. Information on

times to plant, techniques, or handling and marketing of produce

is not readily available. Fewer still learn through seminars,

farmer training sessions, or short courses. If such gatherings

are offered, laborers, sharecroppers, and, to some extent, women


2. The Organization for Rural Development, a private Vincentian
organization, involves women both as workers and participants to
a greater extent than the government extension service.

- 13 -

are left out.

Assuming education is an important part of development, a

significant portion of the population is excluded. Formal

education omits the majority of rural people. Nonformal

education reaches more, but not all. Access to education

contributes to a widening of the gap in capital, land, and status

between the static poor and all others. Structural constraints

are not removed.

Yet there are a few glimnit-rs of hope. The effect of secondary

education on the attitudes towards and participation in

agriculture is ambiguous. It just may contribute to the

development of agriculture as a scientific business that includes

women as well as men. Nonformal education, although sporadic and

also exclusionary, may develop a spirit of unity among workers of

the land and a sense of achievement through group

accomplishments. It may increase individual consciousness of the

social structure and of one's potential efficacy within the

system. Farmers at a workshop testified to their growing sense

of self-worth through association with a national organization.

In effect, many said, "I can lift my head now. It's made me a

person to be respected." Cochrane (1979) states, "Human dignity

and culturally inspired self-expression remain the most basic

need and are not necessarily assuaged by the kinds of basic needs

programs that are now often discussed" (p. 44). In order for the

static poor to take part in this confirmation of human dignity

- 14 -

and opportunity for self-actualization, the structural

constraints to their inclusion in the economic and educational

structures must be removed. Appropriate attitudes will follow.

- 15 -


Census Research Programme
1976 197n Pnpna 1 a finn Can nta n4 i-ho COmmonwea1fh
Car.ibbhhn. Kingstown, Jamaica: The Herald Limited.

Cochrane, Glynn
1979 The iuleinral Apprainl 4 i naeuIlnpmn
Prnipets. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Gordon, Shirley
1963 A anintur n- U WPi TnIian Frtr.tion. London:

LeFranc, E.
1980 "St. Vincent." In Weir's Agricultural Consulting
Service, mal1l Farming in fho >iA Aau1lQpl d
Ctunaiani- n a tho- _CmmonolA tjLh rarcihtoa.- Barbados:
Caribbean Development Bank, pp. 58-92.

Ministry of Education
1981 A RriA .Rouir Pu th- i T _h__ipal/Unrainal
Friration anr Trnaining in t-. Uini-anf and tho
Arpniadins. (Mimeo)

Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development
1980 DLntS-F Sfa4 i tiie. P tha r Year L -22. Report
No. 29. St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Statistical

Ministry of Trade and Agriculture
1978 Cenqna nM AnrlgielirA .r_ eS.. UirAn 7--7 .
Antigua: UNDP-ECCM Printery.

Zuvekas, Clarence, Jr.
1978 A Pnf.il~ nf qmall 9 arme in hm Cari hhoan
RPgion. USAID Working Document Series No. 2.
Washington, D.C.: Caribbean Regional Development

- 16 -

- Minimum Data Set -

1. Location

Country: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Research Base: St. Vincent

2. Environment


e. Soil:

130 to 130 22'
Sea level to 4000 feet
: 70-88 degrees Fahrenheit
on: 91 inches per year with 73% of the yearly rainfall
occurring from June through November.


Yellow Earths
Acidic and low in
95% of the island


has slopes of over 5 degrees.

3. Socio-Economic

a. Size distribution of farms:

78% of holdings are less than 5 acres in size.
22% of holdings account for 78% of the cultivated land.

b. Land Tenure: (statistics subject to dispute)

Rent Free:
Cash Rental:

Mixed Tenure:
Share Tenancy:

c. Ethnic Groups:

East Indians:


d. Language: English

e. Access to Input and Output Markets:

Input: Commodity associations (banana and arrowroot), Marketing
Corporation, Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, several
private businesses and organizations.

Output: Commodity associations (banana and arrowroot), Marketing
Corporation, Eastern Caribbean Agency (private), Kingstown
Central Market, neighboring island trafficking.

f. Access to Credit:

Commodity associations and other agricultural organizations,
Development Corporation, commercial banks, relatives, friends,
and private money lenders.

4. Nature of Cropping System

a. Objectives: Subsistence and Cash

b. Labor Requirements:




1) Female/Male: Women make up nearly 44% of the agricultural
labor force.

2) Distribution Over Time: Decrease in participation by women,
decrease in number of hired agricultural
laborers, increase in number of farm operators
and dependents and other unpaid workers.

3) Hired/Family: (According to 1972-73 agricultural census)

Farm Operators and Dependents: 64%
Other Unpaid Workers: 8%
Paid Workers: 27%

Energy Requirements:

1) Manual: Culass and Hoe
2) Animal: Donkey for transportation of inputs and produce
3) Mechanical: Almost non-existent except on larger estates

Crops: Banana, Arrowroot, Coconut, Root Crops, Vegetables

Important factor limiting production: Land Tenure

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