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Table of Contents
SEP 12 1972
VOLUME 18 NO. I
-,, K ooze
VOL 18 NO. 1
Copyright reserved, and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
3. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
5. PLANNING FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN JAMAICA: SPATIAL
14. GUYANA'S "GREEN REVOLUTION": SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL
PROBLEMS IN AN AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
Bonham C. Richardson
24. THE ROLE OF MINI-RESEARCH STATIONS IN INCREASING FARM
PRODUCTIVITY IN THE CARIBBEAN
29. POEM AFTER THE CARNIVAL
PEASANT MOVEMENTS & AGRARIAN PROBLEMS IN THE WEST
30. PART I Aspects of the Development of the Peasantry
47. PART II Aspects of the Present Conflict between The Plantation &
The Peasantry in the West Indies.
59. THE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL SCALE FARMING: TWO CASES
FROM THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
72. CANADA SUGAR AND THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
George E. Eaton
87. THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH
100. Slave Society in Cuba in the 19th Century Franklin Knight
103. Readings in Government & Politics of the West Indies (1971 Edition) -
Edited Trevor Munroe & Rupert Lewis
Anthony S. Johnson
105. The Decline & Abolition of Negro Slavery in Venezuela 1820-1854 -
John V. Lombardi
108. A Strategy for Caribbean Economic Integration Roland I. Perusse
112. Publications of the Department.
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
R.M. Nettleford, Director of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
Lloyd Braithwaite, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., St. Augustine, Trinidad
Sidney Martin, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, U.W.I., Cave Hill, Barbados.
J.J. Figueroa, Professor, Faculty of Education, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica.
Roy Augier, Dean of Faculty of General Degree Studies, U.W.I., Mona,
Patricia Williams, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, U.W.I., Mona,
Jamaica. (Assoc. Editor).
All correspondence should be addressed to:
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommended subjects which they
would like to see discussed in CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY. Articles of
Caribbean relevancy will be gratefully received.
United Kingdom 1 (Sterling) + Postage
(a) Jamaica $2.00 (J.)
(b) Eastern Caribbean $5.00 (E.C.)
U.S.A. and other countries $4.00 (U.S.) + Postage
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or to the local office of
the Resident Tutor in any West Indian territory served by this University.
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
BARRY FLOYD, who is Professor of the Geography Department, U.W.I., Mona,
worked as a Land Development Officer in Africa, and taught at the
University of Nigeria, before coming to Jamaica in 1966. He is the
author of Eastern Nigeria: a Geographical Review.
BONHAM RICHARDSON is associate Professor of Geography at California
State College Division of Social Sciences. His special interests are in
peasant agriculture in the Caribbean, notably in Guyana on which he
based his Ph.D. thesis "The Rice Culture of Coastal Guyana", and
Trinidad where he was recently studying East Indian farming villages.
HORACE PAYNE is Agronomist in the Regional Field Experimental Programme
of the U.W.I. Faculty of Agriculture. His main work is to determine
fertilizer response of selected food crops on the major soil types in
WOODVILLE MARSHALL is Senior Lecturer in History at the U.W.I., Cave Hill
Campus, Barbados. His special field is West Indian History in the
GEORGE BECKFORD is Senior Lecturer in.the Department of Economics,
U.W.I., Mona, and is the author of numerous studies on agricultural
development problems in the Caribbean published mostly in Social &
Economic Studies. For several years he was editor of the New World
Quarterly and his major work Persistent Poverty appeared in March
DAVID EDWARDS is Professor of Agriculture & Head of the Department of
Agricultural Economics at the St. Augustine Campus of the U.W1. His
Ph.D. thesis on The Economic Study of Small Farming in Jamaica
(1961) was followed by a comparison of the Jamaica & Trinidad small
farming patterns in 1968 reproduced here by courtesy of The
Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science.
GEORGE EATON is Professor of Economics and Director, Division of
Professional Studies at Atkinson College, York University, Toronto. He
has served for many years as economic adviser and labour consultant to
Trade Unions in the sugar industry in the West Indies and was a
member of the Commission of Inquiry which investigated the sugar
industry in Guyana and reported in 1968. Dr. Eaton has served also
under the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme in the
Somali Republic and under the Canada External Aid Programme in
OWEN JEFFERSON is a Lecturer in Economics at U.W.I., Mona, since 1965.
His main academic interests are in the areas of International Economics
and Economic Development. He is currently engaged in research on the
Economics of Tourism in the Commonwealth Caribbean. He is also
Treasurer of the New World Quarterly and joint editor of Readings in
the Political Economy of the Caribbean (1971) and his new book The
Post War Economic Development in Jamaica appeared in March, 1972.
PAT BRYAN is a frequent contributor to Caribbean Quarterly in the field of
Latin American history.
ELSA GOVEIA is Professor of West Indian History at U.W.I., Mona, who has
written several articles on the period of Slavery in the West Indies,
notably "The W.I. Slave Laws of the 18th Century" and her book Slave
Society in the 18th Century.
DWIGHT VENNER holds a Masters Degree in Economics from U.W.I., and is a
research assistant in Economics at the Institute of Social & Economic
Studies, U.W.I., Mona. He also is President of the Windward/Leeward
ANTHONY JOHNSON graduated from University of California, Los Angeles
with M.A. International Finance and was a Senior Planner at the
Central Planning Unit, Jamaica, for three years prior to becoming
General Manager of Jamaica Frozen Foods.
PLANNING FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN JAMAICA:
SPATIAL SYSTEMS ANALYSIS
"It is one of the anomalies of this scientific age that as life grows
more complex and as knowledge proliferates to form a myriad of
specialized subjects, the demand for people with broad perspective
and general understanding is greater than ever before"
Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg (Chairman, U.S. Atomic
Energy Commission), Science and Man in the
Modem World (1967).
There is general consensus on the objectives of programmes for rural
advancement in Jamaica, as elsewhere in the Caribbean and in most emerging
states of the "Third World" Their goal is to bring about major improvements in
social conditions and economic opportunities for rural populations, through the
rehabilitation and development of the physical and human resources of the
countryside. The broad issues at stake in traditional agriculture and rural living
are also widely appreciated: the combatting of environmental constraints, the
wrestling with economic adversities, the struggle against sociological inhibitions.
While the Jamaican environment has frequently been viewed as favourable for
a wide range of agricultural activities, its hostile elements are nevertheless
ubiquitous, and must be controlled or at least cushioned for the better purpose
of man. The hazards of torrential rains, prolonged or unseasonal drouth, high
winds, steep slopes, secular erosion, and infertile soils are receiving increased
attention from physical planners in rural Jamaica.
In terms of economic development, the modernization of the agricultural
sector is vital to the orderly political growth of the country. It is in this sector
that the plans framed by governmental leaders in Kingston are ultimately
implemented. The rural areas are the object of a large part of the planning
process. The dispersed dwellings of Yallahs Valley farmers, the clustered homes
in upper Clarendon, the hamlets and villages in Hanover or St. Thomas are the
nerve ends of an elaborate and costly governmental process.
THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM
FACTORS & LINKAGES AFFECTING
IMPROVEMENTS IN FARMING
In politically realistic terms, economic integration of the rural areas is the
price the ruling dlite must pay to achieve political growth, in order to ensure
their perpetuation in office. While the national focus is often upon the problems
of the fast-growing urban areas, more particularly upon unemployment and the
slums and shanty-towns of Kingston and Montego Bay, it is in the rural areas
that the issue of social inequalities, disguised unemployment and the
economically disadvantaged have their origins.' The country parts, with their
problems of poverty, deprivation, malnutrition, and disease are the ultimate
breeding ground for political unrest, disorder, even rebellion.
The most important priority that is emerging in rural research, in the
Caribbean and elsewhere, is that social scientists must come to grips with the
stubborn question of the rural poor. There is a fundamental need for the
"action-intellectual" to be involved in the problems of rural poverty.
Agriculture and "Systems Analysis"
Agriculture or land husbandry is, in essence, a "systems" problem. There are
innumerable interacting factors which need to be taken into account if
improvements in the agricultural system and hence rural society at large are to
be generated. More efficient and productive modes of farming, leading to social
and economic uplift, are not achieved through the fulfilment of one or two, or
even several, needs of man and land. They require the satisfaction of a whole
range of inter-linked conditions (Fig. 1). Tinkering with the system in terms of
selecting one section of the circuit for upgrading, for example, physical inputs
(soil conservation and beneficiation, improved seed), or cultural factors
(incentives to social change in attitudes towards farming, the behavioral,
motivational, and attitudinal dimensions of small farmers), or economic factors
(improved marketing arrangements, low-interest loans, paved roads) will not in
itself ensure the smoother and more fruitful operation of the entire system.
Co-ordinated planning, embracing the impact of innovations in any one section
on all other sections, is called for: an amalgam or integration of specialist
approaches to the problems of rural advancement. A synthesis of strategies
adopted by planners and scientists in many separate fields of enquiry, but all
concerned with the "common ground" issues of man/rural land relationships, is
This is not to deny that trained minds from a host of specialist subjects are
needed in the decision-making processes of agriculture and rural rehabilitation.
The skills of researchers, technicians and administrators of many different
persuasions require focussing on the many intractable problems of rural land use,
with a view to achieving their rational solution. It is to suggest, however, that the
excessive zeal and parochialism of experts in certain specialized areas need to be
balanced against the potentially equally relevant contributions of workers in
other disciplines. All too often in the past (and Jamaica has been no exception),
analyses of agricultural problems and plans for their resolution have tended to
follow too rigidly the particular aptitudes of the diagnostician; the specialist has
found the factors most familiar to him as crucial in a given situation. His
prescription was thus most likely to read: "take care of my recommendations
first, and all other difficulties will be resolved later in consequence". A review of
recent reports and recommendations by soil and plant scientists, fertilizer and
pesticide specialists, water management experts, agricultural engineers,
development economists, land tenure legalists, rural sociologists, authorities in
public administration, political scientists, and many others, provides adequate
testimony of one-sided approaches to the issues at stake.
The perhaps understandable predilection for seeking answers to agrarian
problems from within the confines of one's personal expertise and experience
has been aptly caught in the following light-hearted verses:
The Old Agricultural Lag2
O why does agriculture lag?
The answers all lie in the bag
But the bag in which the answer
Turns out to have enormous size.
For Anthropologists, Tradition
remains the major inhibition,
And peasants, oftener than we
When led to water, do not drink.
The ardent fertilizer fan
Thinks NPK will beat the ban,
Compost zealots, on the other
Preach "Muck and Magic" on the
Then some there are who argue
The major culprit is the rat,
And so encourage, far and wide
The massive use of pesticide.
Plant breeders feel that all
Since dwarf hybrid wheats and
Will really yield the grand
Ushering in the "Green
Economists, it's plain to see
All think that Prices are the key
For no economy will grow
With inputs high and outputs
Markets and competition now
Must be the hand that speeds the
Making, in one Rostovian leap,
Corn dear and fertilizer cheap.
Some think the answer lies in
Others, that land reform's the
To brush away the blocks that
Development's immobile car.
Some say, when growth occurs, what With facts too many now to list
fed it 'em
Is careful grants of shaky credit, The answer is a General System.
With Government to underwrite So what has got to be advised,
The debts of those who fly by Is, "get the stuff computerized".
When scientists use common sense
They fall into mistakes immense,
It's better far to place reliance
On familiar skills and home appliance.
On at least three international occasions within the last decade, the specialist
approach to problems of agriculture has been much in evidence. It was noted by
a group of development economists at the Center for International Studies,
Massachussetts Institute of Technology (U.S.A.) when they sought to find
answers to the sluggishness of agriculture in underdeveloped countries in 1963.3
There was a tendency for it to flourish also at an International Seminar on
Change in Agriculture, held at Reading University (U.K.) in 1968.4 On this
occasion, some 225 seminar members from nearly 40 countries, including many
of the leading workers in the world on agricultural development, assembled in
interdisciplinarian groups on a regional basis, then in cognate subject-matter
sessions, to evaluate over 60 studies of recent significant schemes to promote
agriculture. This highly informative conference led many participants to a new
and beneficial respect for the endeavours of workers in disciplines often far
removed from their own, yet directed towards the solution of common problems
of land and animal husbandry. Closer to home, the successful Consultation on
Agricultural Development Problems in the Caribbean Region, sponsored by the
Jamaica Agricultural Society and held in Kingston early in 1971, produced a
lively exchange of views between experienced workers and researchers in several
specialized branches of agriculture; hopefully it also induced a fresh appreciation
of the value of co-ordinated efforts to overcome the constraints of traditional
farming in the Caribbean.
The Need for "Combined-Studies" Planners.
In terms of the formidable tasks ahead, we are making the case for a new
breed of rural development planners, whose formal training will be broad
(encompassing aspects of agriculture, the environmental earth sciences, the social
sciences, human ecology, etc.) and whose field experiences will be no less limited
in scope. Such men and women will be the grand synthesizers; they will possess a
distinctive vantage point, a way of thinking, an integrative or syncretic turn of
mind, but not a hard core of narrow empirical or theoretical knowledge peculiar
to any one specialized field. In their approach to farming systems, it will not be
simply a matter of "grinding their own axe" in the manner of some specialists.
They will have, on the other hand, a whole shed-full of academic tools and rural
development techniques with which to cultivate the common ground, most of
them borrowed to be sure from workers in the physical and social sciences, but
for use in combination rather than in isolation.
To the criticism of superficiality or dilettantism which may be levelled at the
new school of integrated planners, we would simply reply: "Are you sure that
being shallow is worse than being narrow?" The benefits to be derived from
overall analysis of an area and its problems, and knowledge of the ramifications
- both positive and detrimental which may result from different strategies for
growth, are surely of considerable value to any master-plan for overcoming "the
old agricultural lag" The detailed, painstaking examination of particular
blockages in the rural system by experts may well be indispensable; if this is so,
however, the broad integrative perspective of rural systems analysts is equally
essential for achieving the ultimate solutions to the problems being faced.
"Spatial Systems Analysis"
One methodological procedure for implementing the integrative approach to
land use planning may now be noted. Its application to the essential components
of agricultural society, and the functional interconnections between man and the
land in rural areas, is particularly appropriate. The procedure has been termed
"spatial systems analysis" It involves a spatial logic or areal approach to
man/land relationships; it directs attention to the integrated patterns of those
ecological, sociological, economic, and administrative or organizational variables
which together create agricultural land use systems from one area to another.
The emphasis is, in fact, on the geometry of agriculture and rural modes of living
("life-styles"). With this approach, one is concerned with the visible and tangible
landscape patterns which have arisen from man's attempts to produce
foodstuffs, agricultural raw materials for industry, and livestock, as well as the
invisible but equally significant patterns of land use systems as, for example,
applications of NPK per acre, tenurial arrangements, property taxes, the spread
of innovations in farm operations, farmers' organizations, credit facilities, levels
of literacy among rural populations, and many others. The areal manifestations
of most of the factors shown in Figure 1 may therefore be considered as falling
within the domain of the spatial systems analysts.
Yet it is not with static rural patterns that one is dominantly or even
exclusively concerned. There are, in addition, those vital aspects of mobility, of
functional circulation (flows and linkages), of movement of inputs, throughputs
and outputs, to be examined spatially: the dynamic features of agricultural
systems which spell their very life, their vigour, or their decay. Time and
distance studies are also an integral component of the spatial systems analysis of
An illustration of how this spatial methodology can be applied may be
helpful. The integrated, spatially-orientated planner is assured that greater
attention to location, shape, area, distances and directions will aid the creation
of more efficient farming practices. Simply stated, movement exacts a charge on
the husbandman: the greater the distance and the more time-consuming the
move, the heavier the charge on productivity, i.e. a reduction in output or
increased costs. The journey to work of the farmer, the propinquity or otherwise
of markets, of sources of inputs (e.g. improved seed, fertilizers, tools and
machinery), of storage facilities, of extension staff, and so forth, all affect in a
most direct way the efficient functioning of the agricultural system.
A prime objective of the spatial systems approach is, then, to make
recommendations for a smoother, more productive farming operation within the
area of activity. One seeks to establish the most effective farm plans and
circulation patterns in order to maximize the fruits of agricultural enterprise.
Layouts and locations designed to cut down on unproductive movements,
commensurate with economies of scale in the farming operation, can aid
appreciably in making agriculture more efficient and profitable. Location
analyses and applied studies of rural circulation may, in fact, provide a
break-through to new and penetrating procedures for tackling the bottlenecks of
established farming practices; they may even point the way to a conceptual
restructuring of schemes for transforming traditional agriculture and rural
If this reads like a specialist prescription comparable to those criticized earlier
in this article, the resemblance is merely superficial. For the spatial or locational
analysis approach is not the exclusive perogative of any one group of scientists
or technicians, it represents a way of thinking, a set of analytical procedures,
which may be exercised by scholars, researchers and rural administrators of
diverse backgrounds in their approaches to problems of agricultural
development. No one body of workers can lay exclusive claim or seek a
copyright to these deductive processes. Their adoption by specialist colleagues in
many fields should, indeed, be welcome, for their application is clearly
all-pervasive in any examination of agricultural systems, no matter what the
standpoint or skills of the investigator.
A neglected tool in the spatial analysis of rural life is the map. The graphic
representation of land use and settlement patterns, whether in the form of
realistic thematic maps at differing scales (Fig. 2), or through theoretical farm
and community layouts, symbolic models, or abstract mathematically-derived
patterns, is an essential aid to the systems approach. The frequent neglect by
many agriculturalists of visual techniques for exploring the facts of present-day
farming operations, and the hoped-for changes following the implementation of
"package" programmes for development, deserves to be rectified.
The translation into action of the theoretical concepts outlined in this article
is not easy. Nevertheless, it is heartening to detect in current planning in Jamaica
a move towards the integrated systems approach in rural rehabilitation and the
RURAL LAND USE
PREDOMINANT ACTIVITY, CROP, VEGETATION COVE
nm SMALL-SCALE MIXED FARMING
r WOODLAND, DISPERSED SMALL FARMS
SCRUB WOODLAND, DISPERSED SMALL FARMS
MONTANE FOREST, FEW SMALL FARMS
I GRASSLAND, CATTLE 'REARING m CITRUS
'- SUGAR CANE MARSH & SWAMP
BANANAS URBAN AREAS
advancement of small-scale agriculture around the island.5 The Land Authorities
are one positive illustration of co-ordinated planning for the future, involving
liaison between officials of several Government agencies, developers in the
private sector, and foreign specialists.6 The North Clarendon Development
Project ("Operation Self-Help",) sponsored by the Jamaica Agricultural Society,
is another example of integrated planning, emphasizing as it does a
comprehensive scheme for rural expansion, with improved social facilities (e.g.
health, education, recreation) and economic developments (e.g. rural
industrialization) other than those in the agricultural sector alone.7 The project
has the further advantage of being based on community co-operation and
internally generated action, rather than relying solely on governmental-imposed
improvement schemes which, in former times at least, often failed to take the
people's needs and aspirations sufficiently into account.
Nevertheless, the application of spatial analysis with supporting cartography
to schemes for re-arranging the existing patterns of rural land use requires
further encouragement, in North Clarendon, the Land Authorities, and
elsewhere around Jamaica. The spatial synthesis of the contributions of
specialists within a regional systems framework is about the best answer we can
provide at present towards tackling the shortcomings of traditional agriculture,
with its associated depressed social conditions in rural areas. It would be
presumptuous to claim that it will provide the complete answer; but it will come
very close towards advancing that ideal answer.
1. Barry Floyd, "Commentary on the Recent Agricultural Census in Jamaica: a Dire
Prospectus", Farmlife, Vol. 2, No. 4 (October, 1971) pp. 32-35.
2. Adapted from the verse of Kenneth Boulding, included in Max F. Millikan and David
Hapgood (eds.), No Easy Harvest The Dilemma of Agriculture in Underdeveloped Countries
(Boston, Little Brown and Co., 1967), p. xii
4. A.H. Bunting (ed.), Change in Agriculture (London, Duckworth, 1970).
5. Barry Floyd, "Rural Land Use in Jamaica", in Dawn Marshall (ed.), Essays on Jamaica
(Kingston, Jamaican Geographical Society, 1970), pp. 10-29.
6. Barry Floyd, "Agricultural Innovation in Jamaica: the Yallahs Valley Land Authority.
Geography Department, U.W.I. Occasional Publications No. 4 (Kingston, 1969).
7. Hugh Robotham, North Clarendon Rural Development (Self Help) Survey (Kingston,
Jamaica Agricultural Society, 1969).
GUYANA'S "GREEN REVOLUTION": SOCIAL AND
ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS IN AN AGRICULTURAL
Government planning agencies and private concerns worldwide involved in
agricultural development have recently been heartened by successes of the
"Green Revolution".' This term is an enthusiastic catch-all for the recent
application of agricultural science and modern technology to traditional
foodcrops heretofore grown mainly by peasant cultivators. Record yields of
newly-introduced rice and wheat varieties in parts of Asia and Africa are being
widely acclaimed. To some, these dramatic results suggest that the problems of
agricultural development have finally been solved: it is now merely a matter of
introducing improved crop varieties and modern means of husbandry to
developing nations. After that, improved yields and marketable surpluses will
soon be realized. The problem is not that simple.
This article deals with the background and problems related to the current
rice development programme in Guyana the Green Revolution in a Caribbean
context. It reveals that successful agricultural development is far from
instantaneous. The introduction of new padi varieties and agricultural techniques
has been only a first step to overall improvement of the Guyanese rice industry.
Attendant political, ecological and cultural complexities in Guyana must be
dealt with before major agricultural improvement is realized. These complexities
need careful attention and require a multifaceted approach to the particular
problems of rice in Guyana. The matter is hardly confined to importing new
padi varieties, fertilizers, and machinery, then settling down to wait for a
bumper crop in October.
Guyana's rice industry is more than a national concern. Much of the rice
consumed throughout the Caribbean is grown on Guyana's coastal lowlands.
Though the country's rice exports are worth less than either its bauxite or sugar,
Guyana's rice industry is locally controlled and provides direct participation by
small-scale producers in earning foreign currency. Nearly 100,000 tons of milled
rice were exported from Guyana in 1967-68.2 Guyanese rice also represents a
valuable domestic food source, erasing the short-run possibilities of famine in the
new republic. Improvement is necessary, however, in both the quality and
quantity of Guyanese rice. In order to effectively penetrate potential grain
markets outside the West Indies, Guyana must produce a higher quality, long
staple rice grain similar to that now grown in Surinam and sold on the European
Common Market. Moreover, complaints from Jamaica and Trinidad about the
low quality of colour, percentage of broken grains and bad odour of Guyanese
rice indicate that these problems must be solved if Guyana is even to hold its
traditional Caribbean markets.3 Also, low yields per acre in Guyana's ricefields
must be improved. Guyana annually produces thirteen 140 pound bags of
unmilled padi on an average acre while the figure is twenty-six for Taiwan,
thirty-three for the United States and near thirty-seven for Italy and Japan.
Much higher padi yields will be necessary if Guyana is to continue to provide
rice for a large portion of the Caribbean. Eventually, Guyana's supply of rice
could be insufficient to feed its own rapidly growing population.
Rice was first cultivated on a relatively large scale in Guyana during the latter
years of the nineteenth century. The crop was usually grown on defunct sugar
estate land by indentured East Indian labourers. There were 15,000 acres in padi
by 1897, and British Guiana first exported the grain in 1903. As more
indentured labourers elected to remain in the colony to farm their own land in
lieu of returning to India, rice acreage continued to increase. Mechanical hullers
were first imported from England during World War 1. These milling devices were
usually housed in tin shacks along the coastal highway by private millers. A
number of local private marketing agencies arranged for rice farmers' surpluses
to be exported, usually to the West Indies. At the beginning of World War II the
Rice Marketing Board was formed to regulate the purchase and export of British
Guiana's rice. This government corporation gained statutory control of the
colony's rice industry in 1946.
A lack of central control over Guyana's rice industry during its earlier
historical development has created a tradition of self-reliance among many of its
padi farmers. It has also led to variability in both farming practices and padi
genotypes from one part of the coast to another. Currently, approximately
300,000 acres are annually devoted to padi in Guyana. Most acreage is in
individual plots of less than ten acres in coastal villages occupied by descendants
of East Indian indentured labourers. Two-thirds of each year's rice crop is
produced at over two hundred privately-owned mills which vary widely in
milling standards. The remaining grain is milled at government-run factories,
notably those at Anna Regina and the Mahaicony-Abary scheme. Early in the
twentieth century, hand and animal labour were the only means of producing
padi in Guyana. Since World War 11, however, mechanization has been
introduced and widely accepted among Guyanese rice farmers. In 1970 most
coastal padi farming is mechanized and produces one crop per year. In the
Essequibo district and West Coast Demerara, enclaves of the older technology
survive where double-cropping is practiced.
Though British Guiana agricultural agencies were often less concerned with
rice than with sugar during colonial days, several development-type reports
dealing with rice on the coast have been written. The first was Charles Douglas's
Report on the Cultivation, Treatment and Prospects of Rice in British Guiana in
1930.4 These reports have unanimously pointed out weaknesses in the industry:
the poor grain quality, inefficient milling operations, inadequate and unsanitary
storage facilities and poor farming techniques. The reports have almost
invariably been written by visiting agriculturalists from either Europe or the
United States, persons with unquestioned expertise in rice but with little
knowledge of the particular problems of the Guyanese countryside. Their
reports have been nearly devoid of concentrated fieldwork done among local rice
producers.5 Too often, lack of time or prolonged discussions with government
officials in Georgetown have allowed these researchers only brief visits to one or
two selected padi-growing areas.
Guyana's current rice improvement programme is based upon the most recent
of these development reports. The report was researched and written in 1967 by
a visiting team of United States economists and engineers.6 Their objective was
to suggest methods of modernization and overall improvement for the Guyanese
rice industry, the principal rural economic activity along the nation's
heavily-populated coastal plain. In order to implement several of the report's
suggestions, the Guyanese government in March, 1969, accepted a development
loan of $25.8 million (Guyana) from the United States for a new rice
programme. These funds are being used for the construction of six modem padi
storage and drying stations located at intervals along the coast. Each station will
be a receiving centre where a farmer may sell his padi. The grain will be stored at
the centres until an order is received by the Rice Marketing Board. Next, the
stored padi will be converted to rice at private mills which are licensed for
export milling. The milled grain will then be shipped abroad. Such a system is
designed to alleviate current difficulties of seasonal surplus since most rice
farmers now send perishable milled grain directly to the Rice Marketing Board
after harvest for immediate payment. A portion of the development loan will
also be used to construct and staff a rice research station.
The stage is therefore set for a Green Revolution to remedy the ills of the
Guyanese rice industry. Newer, better padi varieties will be grown by local
farmers who then will prosper from higher yields. Their grain will be delivered to
local storage sites. Milled rice will then be sent to local, West Indian and perhaps
European or West African markets to earn hard currency for the Rice Marketing
Board and its coastal rice producers.
Unfortunately, implementation of the proposed development programme will
be more difficult than it appears on the drawing boards or in the reports.
Possible solutions to these difficulties will be found only in a clear understanding
of the particular problems in Guyana's rice industry. The remainder of this paper
is an assessment of the problems which must be solved in order to create the
possibility of an effective rice development programme in Guyana. The
discussion is presented under the three main headings of politics, ecology and
culture. This division serves only to order the discussion. It does not assume that
so complex an issue can be sorted into tidy packages.
Politically, the introduction of new or different padi farming techniques or
devices by an outside agency to Guyanese rice producers presents a dilemma in
itself. The vast majority of rural padi farmers are of East Indian origin. Any
foreign development agency must work through the current government of the
new republic which is controlled by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham's Peoples
National Congress party deriving most of its support from the Guyanese
Negroes. The typical East Indian rice farmer is suspicious of the present
government. He perceives almost any move by PNC officials regarding the rice
industry as a calculated attempt to rake off profits to the detriment of the East
The suspicion held by East Indian rice farmers may be partially attributed to
the recent pricing policies of the Rice Marketing Board. After Prime Minister
Bumham's party replaced Dr. Cheddi Jagan's rural, predominantly East Indian,
People's Progressive Party in power in 1964, the PNC took control of the
government agencies, including the Rice Marketing Board. Producer price-cuts
for padi and rice soon followed. Lower prices for rice farmers were inevitable
since during Dr. Jagan's term as Prime Minister, the prices paid out to local
farmers were so high as to create bankruptcy in the industry.7 The East Indian
rice farmer, however, interprets the recent lowering of producer prices as a plan
to create a wide profit margin for the Rice Marketing Board, profits which are
then distributed among the many Negroes working as clerks or stevedores at the
board's Georgetown offices. Problems of national financial solvency are not
easily explained to village padi farmers, especially when their incomes have been
reduced in order to achieve it.
Other charges are levelled at the present government by East Indian farmers.
Village rice producers often complain of being cheated by "racial" Negro rice or
padi graders at the Rice Marketing Board or at one of the central government
mills. Also, East Indian padi producers dislike the recent revocation of a gasoline
subsidy for farm vehicles involved in rice cultivation. This subsidy was enacted
while Dr. Jagan's party controlled the government. Its purpose was to aid rural
cultivators and to encourage the reclamation of new ricelands.
Opposition to the present government's handling of the rice industry is
articulated by the Guyana Rice Producers' Association. This statutory body was
founded in 1946 to protect the interests of the rice farmers in British Guiana.
The Rice Producers' Association often criticizes the Rice Marketing Board in its
quarterly journal, The Rice Review, which has wide currency among East Indian
villages. Criticism of the present government by the Rice Producers'Association
has led to a threatened loss of subsidy for the RPA whose operating funds are
normally allocated through the Ministry of Agriculture.8
Many of the over two hundred East Indian rice millers are dissatisfied with
current development proposals. They are suspicious that the plan calls for export
milling to be under government direction. Private millers have traditionally
controlled much of the capital equipment in smaller rice communities. They
have therefore exerted extraordinary economic power in some villages, acting
also as creditors and shopkeepers. The proposed programme would reduce the
local miller's power since padi would be sold directly to agents at the coastal
storage stations. In open meeting regarding the proposed development
programme, some farmers have been afraid to voice approval in the presence of
the local miller to whom they owe money. Many millers are suspicious as to
whom and how private mills will be licensed under the new programme. Some
openly argue that plans for government-licensed mills are a contrivance to place
millers' profits into PNC coffers.
Another overriding political issue is that the current rice development
programme in Guyana has been conceived and implemented through agencies of
the United States government. Many of the East Indian political leaders hold
self-avowed Marxist philosophies and thus criticize the Burnham government as a
pawn of "United States imperialism" Such accusations reduce the effectiveness
of suggestions to village farmers by foreign or local development personnel.
Though several attractive posters have been distributed by Guyana's Ministry of
Agriculture advising the use of new padi varieties and improved farming
techniques, the suggestions are normally ignored within individual communities.
Padi farmers are more likely to believe politically-inspired rumours circulated
within the village regarding the current development programme.
The ecology of the particular Guyanese environment further inhibits the
effectiveness of the rice development programme. Though Guyana needs a high
quality, long staple padi variety to successfully compete in sophisticated
international markets, no such variety introduced to Guyana has proven
satisfactory to date. During the late 1960's the Guyana Ministry of Agriculture
and United States officials have voiced enthusiasm about the potential for
Guyana of a U.S. variety called "Bluebelle" Bluebelle was developed in Texas in
1965 and introduced to Guyana two years later. Though this fast-maturing grain
has been highly-successful in Texas and Louisiana, it has proven ill-suited to
most Guyanese rice villages. This new variety requires excellent water control
and heavy fertilization, requirements which can be met in the United States but
less easily in a developing country. Without these optimum conditions, Bluebelle
A typical village padi farmer in Guyana prefers the traditional local padi
types, usually BG (British Guiana) 79 and D (Demerara) 110. These grains are
selections of the Indica varieties, originally brought to British Guiana from India
earlier in this century. Such varieties lack the genetic requirements for high
yields. They are favoured by Guyanese farmers, however, since they are hardier
than Bluebelle and better able to withstand drought or flood which are common
in the coastal rice villages. The average Guyanese padi farmer understands that
under ideal climatic conditions Bluebelle will give a high yield. He also knows,
however, that BG79 and D 10 are more reliable under average weather
conditions. Therefore, the rejection of Bluebelle by East Indian padi farmers
cannot be attributed to either politics or ignorance. The villagers are
understandably reluctant to experiment with the Bluebelle variety when it may
mean the failure of an entire year's crop and near-starvation for their families
due to the region's climatological hazards.
Uncertainties of weather are directly related to village water control. The
problems of water control will be crucial to the success of any new or improved
padi variety introduced to create a Green Revolution in the Guyanese rice
industry. In 1970, few village districts of the new republic possess facilities
capable of ensuring either adequate irrigation or the means of draining flooded
fields after heavy rains. The British-owned sugar estates of Guyana continue to
have much better water control than any of the country's rice districts. All
Guyanese rice areas rely on gravity, rather than mechanical means, to bring water
in from the canals in back of the coastal villages or to drain excess water into the
ocean or river at the villages' frontlands.
In August, 1970, approximately forty padi farmers were experimenting with
other new rice varieties, recently developed by United Nations personnel at the
government agricultural station east of Georgetown. There is great hope that
these new padi types will be successful in all parts of the coastal area. The new
varieties have been developed, however, on a portion of the coast where water
control is much better than in the average rice village. A potential failure of
these new padi breeds would be that they are not suited to the effects of poor
water control in other parts of the coastlands. Of the current Guyanese rice
districts, only West Coast Demerara has a water control system capable of
supporting new, improved but demanding padi varieties such as Bluebelle.
The clayey coastal soils of Guyana are generally well-suited for the cultivation
of padi. The coastal mudflats are composed of Amazon River alluvium which has
been deposited all along the littoral of the Guianas and eastern Venezuela by the
equatorial current paralleling the northeastern shore of South America. The padi
clays are unquestionably fertile; some have supported crops of sugar cane and
rice for over two hundred years. The utility of these village soils, however, is
directly related to the effectiveness of a village's water control system. The
heavy clays hold water well and will therefore become waterlogged unless there
is effective drainage. Also, frequent inundations by high ocean tides will increase
salinity thereby reducing a community's soil fertility.
A final environmental feature important in the understanding of the Guyanese
ricelands in 1970 is the layout of a typical coastal village. Almost every village
has a characteristic rectangular shape. On its seaward side, the community
settlement is clustered along the public road which parallels the ocean shore or
river. From the settlement, padilands stretch inland for a distance of up to ten
miles. This settlement pattern relates back to earliest plantation days in Guyana
when sugar estate nuclei were situated near the water's edge to facilitate the
export of raw sugar. The elongated village ricelands are poorly located relative to
the present settlement areas, especially for farmers whose acreage is at the back
of a village rectangle. As a general rule, labour inputs decrease with distance
from the village settlement.9 Dirt roads bisecting the village fields are usually
the only means of ingress and egress. These clay paths are often muddy and
impassable, especially for vehicles, during rainy periods.
The plan of the current development programme has not fully appreciated
the peculiar settlement pattern prevalent on the Guyana coastal plain. The 1967
development report dismissed village padi transportation rates as
"unmeasureable"10 though these rates are sometimes as high as $1.00 (Guyana)
per bag of padi if a farmer must have his crop transported from distant fields to
the public road during the rainy season. The development plan has instead
assumed that all village padi emanates from the intersection of the public road
with the village rectangle. Planned locations for the storage and drying stations
are therefore along the public highway rather than halfway between the road
and the most distant padi fields. The latter arrangement would facilitate padi
transportation from most fields and would not be advantageous (as before) to
those farmers closest to the coastal highway. Padi transport rates represent
considerable out-of-pocket costs to the average Guyanese padi farmer because
two bags of padi which he brings to the mill will normally "mill out" to only
one bag of rice.
As well as political and ecological factors, certain cultural and economic
characteristics of Guyana's village padi producers are relevant in the assessment
of prospects for the current rice development programme. First, the present
landholding pattern of small to medium-sized padi plots in most coastal
communities is inconsistent with the needs of modern, large-scale farming
techniques. Though some communal activity is practiced within the villages in
conjunction with water control, and most farmers plant and harvest at
approximately the same time, village padi cultivation remains an individual or
family matter. Modern irrigation, fertilization, and pest and disease control, on
the other hand, are geared for much larger land areas. At the present time, the
few large government and private rice estates in Guyana produce only a small
percentage of the nation's padi output.
Related to small landholdings in coastal villages is a need for capital and
credit among most rice farmers. In some areas of the coastal plain, millers have
traditionally controlled much of the farm machinery and means of
transportation as well as the local mill. The new development programme would
put much of the responsibility for capitalization in government hands. Despite
proclamations about Guyana's bright future as a "cooperative republic", initial
endeavours at cooperatives within the rice industry have been less than
successful. Most of the combines sent to the government's Black Bush Polder
rice scheme on the Corentyne Coast have broken down, and recently debts of
over $3 million (Guyana) incurred by cooperative rice mills at Black Bush Polder
and Cane Grove have been written off by the Guyanese parliament.11
Poor use of farm machinery in Guyana is characteristic not only at
government rice estates. Several dealers of farm machinery in Georgetown report
a generally low standard of maintenance for tractors and combines by all
Guyanese rice farmers. Considering the relatively recent introduction of
mechanized farming vehicles to Guyana, an alarming number of rusting hulls of
abandoned tractors and combines litter coastal rice communities. In mid-1969
there were 3,200 licensed tractors in Guyana among approximately 50,000 padi
farmers. Since most farming is mechanized in the country, there is considerable
lending and renting of machinery at peak seasons. An extensive and low-yielding
type of rice husbandry prevails in most rice districts of the coastal plain. Dry
land is plowed by tractor in March or April, and seed padi is broadcast by hand
at this plowing. Six months later the land is harvested by combine. There is little
work done in padi fields between planting and harvest.
An economic characteristic of most coastal village padi producers which
must be recognized by development personnel is a tendency toward livelihood
diversification. Owing in part to the ecological hazards of drought and flood,
most padi farmers engage in some other form of livelihood such as the growing
of provisions, tending of livestock, or working at wage labour outside their
communities. Most Guyanese padi producers see these varying economic
activities as inseparable parts of total livelihood, all of which work together to
support their families. If one source of earning cash or sustenance is eliminated
for a season or a year, another acts as insurance to pull a family through hard
times. An extensive type of padi farming is therefore consistent with this
diversified type of livelihood. A coastal village dares not spend too much time at
growing padi for fear that drought, disease or pest attack will nullify all of his
endeavours. Economic planners must realize that most Guyanese rice producers
are therefore not full-time "farmers" as those found in more developed nations
where land, capital and labour are often devoted to the production of a single
crop. It follows that Guyanese villagers cannot be expected to respond
favourably to the same economic incentives which have proven successful in
Western Europe or the United States.
Livelihood diversification may also be related to the spatial network of the
Guyanese coastal plain. A settlement pattern during the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries evolved in which semi-independent villages were located
close enough to sugar estates so that peasant farmers could supplement their
village farming with part-time cash labour on nearby estates. The public road
paralleling the coastal sea wall served as a means of travelling between village and
estate. Today the same public road, an asphalt version of the coastal highway of
earlier days, continues to encourage lateral mobility between village settlement
and either estates or other nearby sources of livelihood.12 In contrast, the muddy
trails down the centre of a typical coastal rice village deter labour-intensive,
high-yielding means of padi production. As suggested elsewhere, increased
attention to such spatial dimensions of rural societies may prove useful to
economic planners. 13
In converting the Guyanese rice industry from a small-scale,
peasant-dominated industry to one capable of producing high-quality grain for a
more sophisticated world market, it seems clear that mechanized operations on
large blocks of padi land in Guyana are inevitable. Large holdings will be
fundamental to an industry which uses modern techniques of water control and
where most operations are handled by machinery. For instance, experimental
sowing of seed padi by airplane has taken place in Guyana only at the
government's Mahaicony-Abary rice scheme. However, if holdings are
systematically consolidated into government estates, political differences within
Guyana will quite possibly be aggravated. Moreover, government-controlled rice
schemes in Guyana have not proven any more efficient than those in private
hands: The Black Bush Polder scheme, under direct control of the Ministry of
Agriculture, has reported some of the lowest padi yields in the country over the
past few years. Any solution which assumes large blocks of land for modern padi
production also risks the elimination of small-scale village producers from the
industry. To-date, one of the industry's strengths has been a rural solidarity
among padi farmers in the sense that they all are participating in a national
A successful development programme for Guyana's rice industry must have
the undivided and mutual support of village padi producers, local government
officials and economic development personnel. Such support is possible only
through a clear recognition of the complexities and interrelations of problems
bearing on padi production at all levels. Moreover, all of the problems mentioned
here, and more, must be handled simultaneously. Since one problem affects
another, seeking their solutions on a piecemeal basis will be inadequate.
Attacking all angles of the present Guyanese rice industry on a broad front will
be most beneficial toward modernization. Finally, it seems imperative that
preparation for the rice development in Guyana be shifted to a grassroots level.
A clear understanding of village padi farming as it now exists will be the basis of
successful change. More development reports prepared by foreign economists
and seminar discussions in the Georgetown offices of the Rice Marketing Board
and Ministry of Agriculture, without a thorough knowledge of the present state
of the industry, will be of little use.
This paper's intent has not been to indict any person, group, or agency in
assessing some problematic characteristics of Guyana's rice industry in 1970. A
number of highly-skilled and devoted Guyanese and others have given much
time and effort in attempting to implement a rice development programme
successfully. Site clearing already has begun for padi storage stations along the
coastal plain. It is hoped that the locally-developed padi varieties now being
tested will prove high-yielding and acceptable to both village farmers and
officials at the Rice Marketing Board. A chance for success in the rice
programme exists, assuming the cooperation of all involved.
Beginning with a careful assessment of all facets to the problem, a successful
development programme may become reality. However, the Guyanese rice
industry will not be changed overnight. Owing to the interrelated complexities
discussed above, it is likely to take a good deal longer. Rather than relying upon
quick miracles wrought elsewhere by the Green Revolution, it appears advisable
that in Guyana's rice development programme, as well as in similar challenges
faced by other developing countries, a clear understanding of the nation's
problems and tedious attention to detail are likely to underlie the most
BONHAM C. RICHARDSON
1. A useful overview of this topic may be found in Clifton R. Wharton, "The Green
Revolution: Cornucopia or Pandora's Box"? Foreign Affairs, Vol. 47, No. 3 (April, 1969),
pp. 464-476. See also Barry Floyd, "The 'Green Revolution': Reality or Myth?"
International Journal of Health Education, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1971), pp. 34-40.
2. The Official Gazette, Georgetown (17th June 1970), p. 872.
3. H. Rouse Caffey and J. Norman Efferson, An Appraisal of Rice Production and
Marketing Problems in British Guiana (Georgetown: Reproduced by the Government
Printery, 1965), p. 10.
4. Charles E. Douglas, Report on the Cultivation, Treatment and Prospects of Rice in
British Guiana (London: HMSO, 1930).
5. An exception is a typewritten manuscript in the Guyana Government Archives: F.
Benham, "Cost of Production and Income in Rice Farming" (Georgetown:1942). The
author provides man-hour figures for typical acres of padi from different coastal villages.
6. Rhodes-Checchi Companies, Guyana Rice Facilities Improvement and Feasibility
Study, A Report to the Government of Guyana, 1967.
7. Survey of Rice Marketing Board and Rice Development Company, A Report Prepared
by Urwick, Orr and Partners International Limited (London, 1966), pp.13-14.
8. Guyana Graphic (March 6, 1969).
9. Bonham C. Richardson, "The Rice Culture of Coastal Guyana: A Study in Location
and Livelihood" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Dept. of Geography, University of
Wisconsin, 1970), Chapter 5. Funds for an eleven month field period in Guyana from
October, 1968, through August, 1969, were provided by grants from the University
of Wisconsin at Madison.
10. Rhodes-Checchi Companies, op. cit., p.v-201.
11. Weekend Post (Georgetown) August 17, 1969.
12. Richardson, op. cit., Chapter 8.
13. G. E. Cumper "Non-Economic Factors Influencing Rural Development Planning,"
Social and Economic Studies VoL 17, No. 3 (September, 1968), pp. 247-248.
THE ROLE OF MINI-RESEARCH STATIONS IN
INCREASING FARM PRODUCTIVITY IN THE CARIBBEAN
From a Lecture presented at the Annual General Meeting Association for the Co-operation
of Research in Bananas in the Caribbean and Tropical America. Jamaica, July 1971.
Research in Caribbean agriculture must, of necessity, be directed at solving
current problems responsible for low land productivity. The problem of
increasing land productivity is not only agronomic but a very complex
The failure of farmers to adopt recommended practices that would result in a
significant increase of yield and farm income, is due partly to the fact that
"Customs die hard" and partly that research or its extension agent have not
demonstrated convincingly the success of the improved techniques under the
farmer's peculiar conditions. Mini research stations operated on the farmer's
holding provide an essential link between research, extension and farm.
Perhaps there is not a more concise statement on the policy for research in
Caribbean Agriculture than:
"Our territories of the Caribbean cannot afford the academic exercise
of research for research sake. Along with research must go a
programme for and of positive action that will carry the results of
our research to every farmer on his large or small holding, where it
can be converted and translated for hirif into hard cash and increased
production, thus benefitting the individual farmer and the nation" '
This policy for applied research is amply justified not only on the grounds of the
limited resources of both funds and qualified personnel of a developing region
but by the fact that low land productivity has been identified as the factor
limiting the economy of the Caribbean.
Low Land Productivity
In 1965 the paper "Research Priorities in Jamaican Agriculture"2 gave a clear
assessment of the significance of agriculture on the Jamaican scene. Agriculture
the greatest employer of labour (over 40%) was responsible for a
disproportionately small and actually declining fraction (less than 12%) of the
Gross Domestic Product. With population growth (3.2 per 1,000 per year) the
value of food imports was rising rapidly. Limited land space dictated that
increased production come from the adoption and optimal application of
improved husbandry practices. Traditional techniques of vegetables and food
crop production were particularly under fire 22 instead of 70 bushels of corn
per acre and citrus, 1 box instead of 5 boxes of oranges per tree. Every crop
testified the need for intensified production. Economic consideration must
inform the whole exercise as interest lay not in the highest yield but in the
Farmers Attitudes the main factor
The problem of low productivity on farms in the Caribbean has emerged3 as
not merely agronomic but a very complex socio-economic one. Many factors
intricately interwoven and dependent on each other are involved. For example,
there are problems of uneconomic farm size involving such factors as land tenure
and fragmentation. Here in Jamaica 71% of the total number of farms occupy
only 12% of the total area of land in farms while 97% of the farms occupy only
34% of the farm land. The other 3% of the total number of farms occupy 66% of
the area in farms.2 This highly skewed distribution of the number of farms in
relation to the size of farms causes much inefficiency in agriculture. There are
problems of farm labour. The average age of farm operators has increased
progressively to between 55 and 60 years old and with this increase of average
age, the standard of farm upkeep generally has declined appreciably. In general,
the youths are disenchanted with agricultural pursuits and often prefer to be idle
in the cities rather than bear the social stigma of agriculture. There are also
numerous problems due to the lack of capital and proper marketing. Momentous
as these socio-economic problems are, it is farmers attitudes and resistance to
giving up traditional methods of cultivation that has proven to be the factor
primarily responsible for the low level of land productivity in the Caribbean. To
show the magnitude of the disparity between improved and traditional methods,
a comparison of production cost of one acre of red peas on farmer's holdings is
set out on page 28.4
Perhaps it is more important to cite examples from Bananas referred by some
as "Green Gold" Yet most farms are averaging less than 3 tons instead of over 9
tons per acre. To dwell on the economic significance of this disparity would be
guilty of "gilding the lily"
The Gap Between Research, Extension and Farm
Under normal circumstances, as the findings of research (experiments)
become available to the extension officer (Extension presupposes the knowledge
to extend) it is necessary for him to translate the results into terms that their
practical relevance become more apparent. The extension officer has to take the
farmer's particular natural condition, his peculiar managerial ability and his
other resources and goals into account in considering the application of the
practise in question. In advising farmers, a course needs to be steered between
neglecting to transmit well established knowledge, thus losing the opportunity of
using new lines of investigation and on the other hand, putting more weight on
the available knowledge than it can bear, with the result that the persons acting
on the knowledge will, on occasions, suffer disappointment and so develop a
lack of confidence in the advisors who innocently mislead thems Finally, the
individual farmer must then test a new practice under his conditions and judge
its value to him in the light of his circumstances. Hence to realise an increase in
land productivity there must be well experienced and highly trained extension
officers on the one hand and farmers willing and able to try out recommended
practices on the other. Unfortunately, most farmers are unable to risk
experimenting and there is often an insufficient number of extension officers to
grant the necessary individual attention to farmers to effect a change of attitude.
Under the circumstances it is not surprising that many attempts at increasing
land productivity have proven little better than "spinning a top in mud" How
then can we bridge the gap between research, extension and the farm? The
merits of carrying out research on the farm, involving the farmer, from the start
and at every stage, should be fully exploited. It is in this regard that mini
research stations have great potential, research and extension value.
MINI RESEARCH STATIONS
As a result of a number of years of operation, the Regional Field
Experimental Programme (Jamaica) of the University of the West Indies realized
the expense and difficulty of supervising widely scattered small trial plots (less
than acre) devoted to a single investigation. It therefore resorted to carrying
out its operations on larger sites of 2-3 acres on which it was feasible to
undertake several investigations simultaneously. These enlarged experimental
areas termed "Mini Research Stations" are representative of a major soil type in
its main ecological region (rainfall and elevation) and are located on the holdings
of co-operating farmers as selected with the guidance of extension officers. The
expense of developing and operating these experimental areas is shared with the
farmer who receives the benefit of the crop in exchange for the use of his land
and some labour assistance. For example, fence posts and wire are provided and
the farmer undertakes fencing off the experimental area from the remainder of
his farm. Tillage, crop establishment and technical measures involving fertilizing
and spraying etc. are all carried out under the research programme, but the
farmer contributes his labour by cleaning up the land before and after tillage
operations; he also assists in weeding and harvesting. However, most important is
the protection from predial larceny and damage provided by the farmer since
this ensures the validity of experimental results.
A Means of Multi-disciplinary Investigation
The area of Mini Research Stations are sufficiently large to provide space for
a number of statistically designed experiments directed at solving a wide range of
agronomic problems limiting the level of production of the main food crops and
vegetables extensively grown on the soil type in question. The experiments
conducted usually involve fertility and variety assessment, population densities
as well as plant protection, i.e. insect, disease and weed control. This
multi-disciplinary approach is very important in agricultural research as several
factors of different scientific disciplines are involved and anyone of them might
prove limiting. The advantage of a team of scientists working together therefore
becomes a reality in this modus operandi.
A Method of Agricultural Extension
It is generally accepted that "one demonstration is worth a thousand
explanations" The participating farmer and those in the neighbourhood
appreciate that the investigations being carried out are directed at solving their
problems and can readily draw their own conclusions as to what practices suit
their conditions. The operations on the experimental areas also provide
opportunity to train workers recruited in the district, in the technical skills
The whole problem of farmers training is simplified. A marked improvement
in the husbandry of farms adjoining mini-research stations has been observed and
recently the Santa Cruz Land Authority has spearheaded the use of
mini-research stations as a method of extension in their drive to increase peanut
production in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. It is important to stress the essential
difference between Mini Research Stations and standard demonstrational or
observational plots the teaching value of which are well known and long
established. Though having identical teaching value, mini-research stations are
more scientific and allow statistical experimentation which is very important in
the Caribbean with its highly varied soil, topographic and climatic conditions
within very short distances. Scientific findings fully established at a major
agricultural station cannot be "demonstrated" at widely scattered locations with
any confidence of success. The recommended practice must be "tried out" first
in the new area and as already stated the average farmer can ill afford to
experiment. Even the usual observational plot, established on the farmer's
holding with extension support lacks scientific value in that they do not permit
statistical comparison. Any successful demonstration is therefore a matter of
chance. Occasions of failure of so called "demonstration plots" are too frequent.
This might be due to factors outside the control of the extension officer, but to
say the least the farmer remains unconvinced. Often however, failure of the
recommended practice is due to lack of consideration of environmental factors
which would have become evident in a properly statistically designed
experiment. In a nut-shell, research and extension officers alike, cannot lightly
ignore the years of accumulated experience of farmers when recommending a
new measure as an improved practise.
The problem of increasing land productivity in the Caribbean is a very
complex one. In order for research to have its proper impact raising land
productivity, the farmer must be more directly involved, Mini research stations
on farmer's holding have a special double barrel role in bridging the gap between
Research, extension and farm.
Production Cost of Red Peas Phaseolus Vulgaris)
Improved Method Traditional Method
1. Labour operation 105.00 96.00
2. Materials 58.00 8.00
3. Other charges 20.00 13.00
Grand Total 183.00 117.00
Estimated yield 1,600 Ibs. 600 lbs
Cost per lb. 11.4c 19.5c
At an average market price of 25c per lb.
Gross Return $400.00 $150.00
Net Profit $217.00 $ 33.00
1. Opening address by the Hon. H. Green, Acting Minister of Agriculture, Guyana to the
9th Annual meeting of the Caribbean Food Crop Society, Guyana, June 1971.
2. Caribbean Affairs, "Agricultural Research in Jamaica" presented by Winston G. Stuart,
Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of Agriculture & Lands.
3. An Economic Study of Small Farming in Jamaica by David Edwards, U.W.I.
4. "Aspects of Red Pea (Phaseolus Vulgaris L.) Cultivation in Jamaica with Special
Reference to Fertilizer Use on Bauxite Soils by H.W. Payne.
5. Caribbean Affairs "A Strategy for Agricultural Research in Jamaica" by Dr. D.T.
After the carnival
that frame twisted.
Tinsel shivered in the eye's corner
the mouth was turned down, stopped
in its grimace, there were fragments of crystal
like ice under the forehead, or sweat finally dry.
The air was loose again, like an old drum.
That was the real silence.
Not the doors closing
nor the death curled down every street like streamers
nor the singer's drunk breath.
But the mask was terrible to comprehend, bent,
buckled, and the treason of its laughter
inflexible and sequinned after all.
The armature betrayed its dance
trapped in a flat relief: the face was uninhabited.
Only its frozen ironies lent
anger to the treason of my grief.
PEASANT MOVEMENTS & AGRARIAN PROBLEMS
IN THE WEST INDIES
ASPECTS OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PEASANTRY
The recent existence of the West Indian peasantry, the circumstances of its
birth and the conditions in which it has had to exist make it difficult to speak
with any certainty about "peasant movements" in the region. Research has so
far unearthed little evidence of overt political activity among the peasants; they
founded no political parties, they participated in no revolutions. The most that
can be said is that they participated in a number of protest demonstrations and
riots, that they established a number of welfare organizations which could have
had political influence, and that during the last 30 or 40 years they have joined
political organizations, most of which were dominated by other groups. In the
main the peasantry's development has been characterized by economic activity -
persistent efforts, both on an individual and a co-operative basis, to secure an
independent existence through cultivation of the soil outside of the dominant
plantation society and sugar economy. However, since this continuing effort
involved the modification of the structure of the total society, the attempt at,
and success in establishing such an existence may be regarded as an aspect of the
peasant's political activity.
This section of the report will, therefore, examine the circumstances of the
origin of the peasantry, some of the peasants' welfare and political organizations,
and the overt attempts at political action by peasants to meliorate their
* The term West Indies is used to refer to the former British West Indies:- Jamaica,
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana (formerly British Guiana), Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada,
St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla and Montserrat. Most of the
territories are very small in size; the largest are Guyana with 83,000 sq. miles. Jamaica
with 4,411 sq. miles and Trinidad with 1,864 sq. miles
I. The Origins and Establishment of the Peasantry to about 1900
The West Indian peasantry started its existence after the complete
emancipation of the slaves in 1838. It was composed of those ex-slaves who
started small farms on the periphery of the plantation areas, wherever they could
find land, on abandoned estates, on Crown land and in the mountainous interior
of the various territories. S.W. Mintz has noted the main features and
implications of this development:
"They represented a reaction to the plantation economy, a negative
reflex to enslavement, mass production, monocrop dependence and
metropolitan control. Though these peasants often continued to
work part-time on plantation for wages, to eke out their cash needs,
their orientation was in fact antagonistic to the plantation
This antagonism was basic to the situation, and it has rendered the growth of
the peasantry difficult and made its existence marginal. The plantation, mainly
the sugar plantation, had dominated the landscape and the society for centuries.
It engrossed nearly all the best land, monopolised the few technical skills
available, controlled the sources of credit, and possessed a decisive voice on all
questions of public policy. Emancipation of the slaves threatened a weakening of
this control by creating a labour force which was no longer entirely dependent
on the estates. For the planters, accustomed to a dependent and more than
( ample labour force, and habituated to the wasteful agricultural practices which
this situation bred, the prospect was most alarming. They asserted that the loss
of "steady and continuous labour" would endanger "the maintenance of the
colonies as valuable and productive possessions of the Crown;"2 and that the
ex-slaves who left the estates would quickly and irrevocably decline in the scale
of civilization.3 What the planters wanted, as the Royal Commission of 1897
pointed out, "was a large supply of labourers, dependent on being able to find
work on the estates and consequently subject to their control and willing to
work for low wages."4 The fact, therefore, of peasant land settlement would
confirm their worst fears and disrupt their economy.
Consequently, planters sought from the beginning to obstruct peasant land
settlement. They tried to bind the ex-slaves to the estates by a form of
labour-rent tenancy and long labour contracts; and they attempted to limit
opportunities for occupational differentiation by establishing a system of license
fees for employment outside the estates. In addition, by means of another
system of licenses and fees, they made it difficult for the ex-slaves to produce
staple crops, or to employ themselves in the production of charcoal, firewood
and arrowroot flour.5 But above all else, they tried (and managed) to block-
extensive peasant settlement on the uncultivated land in the various territories.
Land suited to such development was available, to a varying extent, in all the
territories. Most of it could be found in Trinidad and Guyana (British Guiana),
Jamaica and the Windward Islands (St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Tobago and
Dominica). The first two territories had small populations and a relatively young
sugar industry, while in Jamaica and the Windward Islands, the sugar industry
had left undeveloped and unoccupied most of the mountainous interior. Only in
Barbados and the Leeward Islands (St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Montserrat and
Antigua) was land scarce.6 In those islands, a large population, and old sugar
industry and small land area had left little land unalienated or unoccupied. In
1897, the Royal Commission found quantities of uncultivated arable land in all
the territories. These quantities ranged from 10,000 acres in Barbados to more
than one and a half million acres in Jamaica.7
Uncultivated land could be divided into two categories. First, there was
Crown land, that is, the land which remained ungranted by the Crown to
patentees. This area was extensive in many of the territories, particularly in
Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica and the Windward Islands? but much of it was not
suitable for settlement. For the most part, it consisted of the mountainous,
forested, sometimes inaccessible, interior. Moreover, its extent and exact
location were difficult to determine. The portion that was cultivable or, on other
ways exploitable, was often appropriated illegally by squatters and charcoal
burners and by neighboring estates.9
The second category of surplus land was uncultivated estate land, the vacant
successions, ruinate or abandoned land, often called Back Lands.10 This was also
an extensive area, and it comprised most of the usable land which was not being
cultivated in the West Indies. The ease with which land was acquired by the early
settlers, the vicissitudes of the sugar industry and wasteful agricultural practices
were mainly responsible for a situation in which, as one governor said, estates
usually had "more land out than in cultivation" II
F.L. Engledow found in 1939 "large parts of estates, not uncommonly up to
half, and in some cases entire properties" in a ruinate condition.12 Moreover,
this area of land was being continually increased after Emancipation by the high
incidence of misfortune in the staple production. Long depression in the sugar
industry, disease in cocoa, coffee and banana cultivation, hurricanes and
earthquakes forced contraction of plantation cultivation, abandonment of
estates and, sometimes, a resumption of ownership by the Crown when the land
became forfeit for the arrears of quit rent. It was estimated that in Jamaica at
Emancipation some 815,000 acres of land were in arrears of payment of quit
rent and other taxes,13 and between 1871 and 1912 nearly a quarter of a
million acres did, in fact, become forfeit to the Crown for the non-payment of
taxes.14 This was the type of land most desired by the potential peasants and
when access to it was limited or denied, they squatted on portions of it, or
surreptiously exploited its timber and pasturage. s
The ex-slaves were allowed legal access to only a small portion of this land.
Crown land was closed off almost completely by the various legislatures' actions
and deliberate inaction. They refused either to finance surveys of the Crown
land or to frame liberal regulations for its disposal. At the same time, they
adopted stringent legislation against squatting and the "despoiling" of Crown
land. It was not until 1895 that any of the territories modified this policy. In
that year the Jamaican Government initiated small hold land settlement on
liberal terms on the Crown land. But, despite strong metropolitan
encouragement and local peasant demand for similar action, such a policy was
not generally adopted until the late 1930's.17
Surplus estate land was almost as difficult to acquire by peasants and
potential peasants. Some planters refused to sell or rent their surplus land; others
agreed to rent but refused to sell; and most of those who did sell land exacted
high prices for small portions of it. Prices after Emancipation ranged between 5
and 20 per acre, and sometimes reached as high as 100 and 200.18 Moreover,
the land sold was usually of marginal quality, land regarded as unsuitable for
staple cultivation, located on "the interior mountain ridges",19 often far from
water and good roads, sometimes unsurveyed and uncleared and, in Guyana,
almost certainly requiring drainage. This meant that the process of freehold land
acquisition by the individual peasant tended to be a slow one. Often, he bought
his land on an instalment plan, and could only afford a small lot. Therefore, it
took him a long time both to acquire clear title and to build up a sizeable
holding out of a number of small scattered lots.20 Often, too, the potential
peasant had to use various expedients on his way to freehold land acquisition.
He might perform almost regular estate labour, accept a metayage agreement or
a "contract", lease extensive portions of land, follow a trade, keep a shop, fish,
Some land was acquired by the ex-slaves partly because many had a burning
land hunger, but mainly because the plantation and planters did not control the
situation as completely as they had done during slavery. Immediately after
Emancipation many observers remarked on the ex-slaves' "avidity" for land,
"however limited in extent".22 In 1897, a Royal Commission found evidence of
the same land hunger: "both the Negro and the Coolie like to own small patches
of land by which they make their livelihood, and take a pride in their position as
This land hunger was satisfied, in the extremely limited extent that it was,
only because of the extent of the planters' difficulties. The sugar industry was
already in decline at Emancipation because of massive indebtedness, a shortage
of credit and capital, and falling sugar prices.24 Its condition was aggravated
after 1838 by the new capital and labour problems which Emancipation created,
by British Free Trade policy, by a commercial depression in 1847 and finally, by
a ruinous competition with beet sugar between 1876 and 1903.25
Depression became, therefore, the normal condition of the industry
throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. As a consequence, the
plantation system was continually being modified as the area of sugar cane
cultivation contracted, and new staple crops were experimented with. More land
became available for peasant settlement as a result either of the abandonment of
estates or of the eagerness of some planters to seize cash returns wherever they
could find them. Moreover, some planters recognized that they could win
advantage in the labour market by selling land to their ex-slaves. Such action was
likely to (and did) dispose these small holders to offer some of their labour to
the planters who had sold them land. Finally, these same difficulties forced the
planters in Trinidad and Guyana to promote actively the settlement on the land
of their Indian indentured labourers who had been imported both to replace the
Negro labourers on the sugar estates and to lower the rate of wages. Anxious to
avoid the costs of repatriating these labourers and of importing new ones, the
planters and legislatures, as Williams has pointed out, made land grants to these
labourers as commutation of their return passages. In this way, 32,000 acres
were allotted in free grants to Indians in Guyana between 1891 and 1913; and in
Trinidad 23,000 acres were sold to Indians between 1885 and 1895, and a
further 31,766 acres were similarly disposed of between 1902 and 1912.
The ex-slaves took full advantage of these few opportunities for land
acquisition. By practising thrift and industry, sometimes by pooling their savings
in informal joint stock companies, by accepting the help of Baptist parsons in
bargaining with planters; they accumulated the purchase money, or a portion of
it, and established themselves as peasant farmers.27 The success which attended
these efforts can be judged by the following statistics for Jamaica:26
Estimates of Small and Medium Sized Holdings, 1838-1902
(Compiled from Eisner's Jamaica 1830-1930, Hall's Free Jamaica,
and the 1897 Royal Commission Report)
Holdings under 10 acres Holdings under 40 & 50 acres
1845 19,397 1838 2,114
1882 43,707 1841 7,919
1896 81,924 1860 50,000
Similar development could be found in Guyana, Trinidad and the Windward
Islands. By 1852, there were in Guyana, more than 11,000 new freehold
properties worth about 1 million.28 Trinidad possessed some 13,000 cane
farmers by 1911.29 In the Windward Islands there were about 10,000 new
freeholders by 1861, and in Grenada alone, the number of peasants increased
from 3,600 in 1860 to more than 6,000 in 1896.30
These new cultivators of the soil introduced elements of a new economy.
They produced a great quantity and variety of ground provisions, vegetables and
livestock; for instance, it is estimated that the value of Jamaican peasants'
ground provisions was 2,601,200 in 1890 which represented about a three
hundred per cent increase in a period'bf forty years.31 Even more important,
the peasants indulged in cash crop production. They produced significant
quantities of the existing staples (sugar, coffee and cotton) and, in addition, they
introduced or reintroduced on a wide scale such crops as arrowroot, bananas,
cocoa, spices, coconuts and citrus. This activity diversified the basic
monocultural pattern of the economy and strengthened it by introducing some
elements of self-sufficiency. In addition, the presence of a new class might have
helped to soften some of the rigid divisions of class and race which were a
feature of the plantation society?2 By 1900, the peasantry had earned its
commendation from a Royal Commission as "a source of both economic and
political strength" 33
Nevertheless, the peasantry was a marginal feature of West Indian life. In the
first place, peasants occupied (and still occupy)34 a small portion of the land.
For instance, in 1930, Jamaican peasant holdings (holdings under 10 acres)
totalled 171,683 and comprised 512,092 acres or about 20% of the land, while
1,391 large properties comprised 1,368,465 acres or about 56% of the land. a
Much of the land was of poor quality. C.Y. Shepherd said in 1945 that many
peasant holdings in the Windward and Leeward Islands were "Characterized by
some such defect as low fertility, inaccessibility, or steep slopes; in instances
these handicaps, either singly or in combination, preclude the peasant from
attaining a reasonable standard of living".36
Secondly, the peasantry was almost completely neglected by government.
Little or no provision was made for the construction and maintenance of roads
into peasant districts; local markets, schools and hospitals were seldom
constructed; no attempt was made to initiate schemes of land settlement or to
increase and improve the agricultural skills of the peasant.7 There were a few
exceptions to this, notably in Jamaica after 1865, but generally the situation was
what F.L. Enledow found in 1939: "British West Indian Governments as a
whole have completely failed to take steps to understand peasants agriculture
and its needs."38 The plantation, on the other hand, was favoured by
government. A large portion of the slender resources of the territories was often
diverted to the support of the estate-based sugar industry. In particular, the
importation of Indian, Chinese and African labourers into Guyana, Trinidad,
Jamaica and the Windward Islands was heavily subsidized by governments, and,
in addition, the planters were often relieved of a part or all of the export duties
on stable produce.
Thirdly, the planters continued a damaging campaign through propaganda
and legislation against the peasantry. They and their supporters ignored the
social and economic potential of the new class. Rather, they castigated its
members as squatters, possessing a "love of uncivilized ease"39 and likely "to
relapse into barbarism and the savage state" 40 In short, the peasants were
described as individuals "too lazy to work on the sugar plantation." 41
Therefore, steps had to be taken to drive them to work on the estates. The main
instruments of such policy were heavy indirect taxation on articles of mass
consumption and mainly heavy discriminatory taxation on the peasants' land,
houses and working animals. For instance, plantation working animals in
Grenada and Tobago were either not taxed or taxed very lightly while those of
the peasants were always taxed at fairly high rates.
Land taxation revealed most clearly the coercive edges of this policy. In St.
Vincent, a tax was levied in 1844 on all farmers who did not raise taxable
produce. In St. Lucia, land taxes were at first levied at the rate of 1-4-10 for all
holdings under 100 acres in extent and 3-4-0 for all holdings over 100 acres in
extent. In Tobago, a land tax of 8/- per acre was levied in 1843 on land not
attached to the estates or leased to small holders. In both of the latter cases, the
tax was modified mainly because of peasant opposition to it. It was first
converted into a tax on cultivated land, and eventually into a property tax. Until
this happened the basic inequality was plain for all to see. The Governor of St.
Lucia pointed out in 1847 that "the hillsides" where the peasant usually had
their holdings were taxed at the same rate as "the fertile bottom land tho' of
course the former is much more difficult to clear and cultivate and yields much
less than the latter"42 A Stipendiary Magistrate in Tobago probably spoke for
many peasants when he described the land tax in 1853 as "either robbery or
confiscation" and "harder to bear inasmuch as no attempt seems to be made to
extend the operation of the land tax to abandoned estates."43 It was the
deliberate refusal of government to enforce the provisions of forfeiture against
estates which were in arrears of quit rent and land taxes that was partly
responsible for the continuing increase of the Back Lands and ruinate estates in
Jamaica and some of the other territories.
Peasant protest against taxation was frequent. The peasants complained
through the Stipendiary Magistrates of the high rate of land taxation,
particularly during and after the commercial depression of 1847 when cash was
in even shorter supply than usual and the opportunities for employment in
estate labour were being curtailed. As a result, they were less anxious to buy
land, and more eager to evade tax collection. They were also upset by the whole
process of taxation. It was new and strange to individuals who were probably
ignorant both of measurement and of the amount of tax for which they were
liable. Moreover, tax collection was inefficient and sometimes dishonest. A
shortage of collectors aided evasion; some collectors were most arbitrary in their
methods; and others, being planters, were suspected of manipulating the tax
schedule in their own interest.
One of the strongest protests against land tax was registered in St. Lucia
during March 1849.44 This protest, which was first expressed through petitions
to the governor and then through a demonstration near the headquarters of
government, eventually escalated into a bloody riot in which eight of the rioters
were killed and a number of sugar estates were extensively damaged by fire. 45
The governor claimed that the riot was instigated by refugees from Martinique
who were infected with "communist and republican principles" and who wanted
to test "the strength and firmness" of the government.46 But it seems clear from
the information which the governor himself, supplied that the rioters were
mainly peasants of the Northern District who had evaded payment of the land
and other taxes for some time, and on whom attempts had recently been made
to levy for the arrears of taxes. Some of these peasants had sent two deputations
to the governor to express their grievances. They argued that because of the low
prices of provisions and the high rent for land they could not pay the land tax
which was "a very great imposition", and were not inclined to pay it "at all
hazards" They pointed out that they were in a worst position than lease holders
for whom the landlords paid the tax. Therefore, they wanted the tax repealed so
that they could "earn a small living for themselves" When these petitions failed
to bring favourable response, except for the promise that the proceeds of the tax
would be devoted to the provision of educational facilities for their children, the
peasants demonstrated in the capital. Violence erupted when attempts were
made to arrest some of the tax defaulters. Parts of the town were evacuated, and
the troops were called out to restore order. This was done on the same day after
"savage fighting" and "determined resistance" from the rioters who were armed
with cutlasses, sticks, stones and bottles. Disorder in the countryside continued
longer; and the most significant aspect of it was that the estate owned by tax
collector of the Northern District suffered the most extensive damage.47
Governmental hostility and indifference to peasant development abated only
when the sugar plantation seemed in danger of total extinction. By the end of
the nineteenth century, competition with beet sugar had so undermined the
West Indian sugar industry that the abandonment of even the best managed and
equipped sugar estates seemed a most distinct probability. Clearly, such a
development could threaten the existence of the society. The Commission which
was sent from Britain in 1897 to investigate the condition of the sugar industry
saw only one possible solution to these problems:
..It seems to us that no reform affords so good a prospect for the
permanent welfare in the future of the West Indies as the settlement
of the labouring population on the land as small peasant proprietors;
and in many places this is the only means by which the labouring
population can in future be supported."48
The Report of this Commission marked, at least, an easing of the "intellectual
conflict"49 between plantation and peasantry. Official attention was focused
for the first time on the problems of peasant land settlement and peasant
agriculture. This resulted in the extension of land settlement schemes in Jamaica
and the initiation of such schemes during the next 20 years in St. Vincent,
Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia and Antigua.50
But this did not mean that an "Agricultural Revolution" had started or that,
as Shepherd asserts, the peasantry had received its Magna Carta. The majority of
the West Indian governments either ignored the Commission's recommendations
or implemented them slowly. No doubt they were encouraged to do this by the
news of the reprieve granted the sugar industry by the Brussels Convention of
1903 which destroyed the immense advantage which beet sugar had recently
enjoyed over West Indian cane sugar. Such was the revival of the plantation that
when another Commission came to the West Indies in 1929 in the wake of the
world wide depression, they found that, with few exceptions, little had been
done to carry out "the strong recommendations" of the 1897 Commission. This
new Commission, therefore, reiterated the recommendations of its predecessor:
"We desire to reiterate those recommendations as an essential part of
the general policy for the progressive solution of the present
difficulties of the West Indian Colonies. In addition we strongly
recommend that every attention should be given to the development
of co-operation among the small producers and to assisting them
with credit facilities and in the preparation and marketing of their
Not until the 1940's, after another crisis brought on by widespread disturbance
and after the visit of another Commission, was any sustained attempt made to
implement these recommendations.
II. Peasant Organisations
Peasant organizations throughout most of the period were limited in scope
and objective. They were mainly mutual aid societies, formal and informal
co-operatives, designed to sustain existence and promote welfare. They were
used for such diverse objects as land purchase and clearing, credit and banking
facilities, the building of homes, chapels, schools and markets, and the marketing
of produce. The first associations were nearly all informal, simple in organisation
and not limited to peasant membership. These included the Susu, a small scale
co-operative saving society which could be found mainly in Trinidad,s2 informal
joint stock companies to buy land which could be found in Guyana and Jamaica,
and Friendly and Benefit Societies,53 usually organised by ministers of religion,
which extended their operations in all of the territories after Emancipation.
Through these organizations, peasants were able to finance projects which they
could not afford in an individual capacity, and they could make some small
provision for their old age and burial.
Some of the later associations were sophisticated in organisation and more
specialized in objective. These included organizations like the Jamaica
Agricultural Society (J.A.S.) which was established by government in 1895, The
People's Co-operative Loan Banks of Jamaica which were started in 1905, The
Grenada Co-operative Bank (Penny Bank) which was established in 1932, The
Banana Producers Association which was established in Jamaica with
government aid in 1927, and the St. Vincent Co-operative Arrowroot
Association which was founded in 1930. These organizations were intended to
cater to the peasants' needs for agricultural information and guidance, credit
facilities and competitive marketing arrangements.
Two of these the J.A.S., and the People's Banks deserve special attention
because of the extent to which they became peasant institutions and might have
directed the peasants towards group political activity. The People's Banks were
sponsored by government, and they received (and still receive) some government
funds for lending. But they were, to some extent, peasants' co-operatives. They
were located in the rural areas, peasants owned shares in them, comprised the
committees of management and were the recipients of the loans. The extent to
which these banks filled a need can be judged from the fact that, by 1928, there
were forty of them in existence with a paid share capital of 38,674.s4
The J.A.S. was a paternalistic creation. It was founded as a voluntary
organisation, supported by government funds, to disseminate agricultural
knowledge "in a missionary way" among the peasantry.ss From the beginning,
it suffered from what Gordon Lewis calls "an illogical duality of role";56 it was
voluntary, government subsidized, and expected to work closely with the
government's Department of Agriculture. But despite this difficulty, and the
slow growth of its membership, it made a useful contribution by encouraging "a
spirit of independence and self-help among the peasantry",57 and by helping to
create "an independent bloc of farming opinion, ready to defend itself at any
moment against government bureaucracy."58 Its structure was mainly
responsible for this. It was composed of a parent body and several branch
societies. These branch societies became virtually autonomous: they elected
their own committees, met regularly and discussed not only agriculture but also
social amenities, roads and transportation, medical relief, water supplies, postal
facilities, and recreation through fairs and shows. Clearly, then these branch
societies, like the secret and non-secret mutual aid groups, became important
centres of local opinion and served as "a primary outlet for the political activity
denied this group living under the controls of the colonial society".59 Gradually,
local leaders primary school teachers and a few peasants took over the
leadership of these branches from ministers of religion. In this way, peasants
received some experience in leadership roles and some exposure to political
activity, particularly since the branch leaders went as delegates to the half-yearly
meeting of the parent body.
Peasant political organizations appeared late and were not numerous. For the
most part, peasant participation in political organizations did not reflect a strong
group consciousness. Peasants tended to join organizations which other
dissatisfied groups established. Many of these organizations appeared in the
1920's and 1930's as a variety of reformers and radical leaders called for
constitutional reform and measures for the social and economic improvement of
the condition of the working class and lower middle class. Some peasants joined
the Trinidad Working Men's Association (later renamed the Labour Party) which
was active after the First World War under the leadership of Captain Cipriani; 60
some joined the Grenada Working Men's Association which A. Marryshaw
founded in 1930;61 many in Jamaica were, doubtless, members or sympathisers
of groups like Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Jamaica
Protective Association, the Social Reconstruction League, the Jamaica
Permanent Development Convention and the Artisans Federated Union. Most of
these organizations were urban in character, and dominated by petit bourgeois
elements and objectives. Small merchants and shopkeepers, commercial clerks
and teachers were the bulk of membership, and the main objectives of these
organizations included extension of the franchise and the abolition of Crown
Colony Government, economic self-help and protection of small from big
business, legislation of trade unionism, workmen's compensation, etc.62 Only,
indirectly, did these groups promote the peasants' particular concerns.
In Jamaica, however, there is evidence of distinct peasant political activity
which paralleled urban political activity during the 1930's. Against a background
of general world depression and, in Jamaica, low wages, massive unemployment
and under-employment, and disease in banana cultivation, two peasant political
organizations were active between 1935 and 1938. These were the St. Thomas
Tax and Rate Payers' Association, founded in December 1935 in Eastern St.
Thomas, and the Poor Man's Improvement Land Settlement and Labour
Association which was founded in March 1938 in Upper Clarendon. Both
organizations operated in areas where the plantation had been, to some extent,
modified by peasant settlement, and both organizations had the same general
objectives. They intended to develop unity among the "small men" so that
their63 grievances would be heard by government and brought to a "final
discussion." They would be "a mouthpiece to the Government"64 for the
development of comprehensive land settlement schemes. R.E. Rumble, the
leader of the Clarendon Association, and an active member of the Chapleton
Branch of the J.A.S., declared:
"What I am asking is for all small men to join in this general
movement and push the cause. It is not a local matter but an
island-wide one. "65
Between late 1935 and early 1938 the leaders of these organizations provided,
through their letters to the weekly newspaper, Plain Talk, and their petitions to
the governor, a graphic statement of the "burdens and oppressions" which many
peasants endured. The St. Thomas Association called attention to the bad state
of the roads, the inadequacy of medical and educational facilities, and the lack
of sanitary water supplies. It protested against proposals to increase direct
taxation: taxes were already too high, it said, and an increase would reduce the
members of the Association to pauperism and criminality.66 Both Associations
stressed the shortage of employment and the low rate of wages; the Public Works
Department did not offer enough work; labourers often had to walk from estate
to estate over weeks before they could find work; and they were forced to
accept "hand to mouth" wages of 1/3, 1/6 and 1/9 per day. They suggested the
adoption of a Minimum Wage Law, and warned that "through no wages to earn
man becomes savage" 67
Both Associations complained bitterly and repeatedly of the Landlord's
"tyranny and slavedom" For the St. Thomas Association, the main grievance
was the "share system", a form of metayage agreement, with its insecurity of
tenure and small uncertain cash returns.68 For the Clarendon Association the
main grievances were high rent of 24/- to 30/- per year and the frequent
occurrence of dispossession which followed the non-payment of rent; "land
rent," it said, "is so high and men living on some of these properties for over 60
or 70 years are being treated as animals."69
The main solution for these difficulties, they agreed, was "land room"
government sponsored land settlement on Crown and uncultivated estate land.
The Clarendon Association noted that both bananas and sugar cane had lost
their pre-eminence in the district; "the only way out", they urged, "is for
government to have lands available so that we can get to plant for rainy days" 70
Both Associations provided the government with lists of estates in which the
land settlement schemes could commence. The St. Thomas peasants seemed
prepared to accept settlement on leasehold since this was an obvious
improvement over metayage agreements, but the Clarendon Association, linked
as it was with the Henry George Foundation, declared: "we want no more
landlords" The people, said Rumble, "must be free of the burden of rent, and
be loyal taxpayers of the island."7
The existence and activity of these Associations were clearly signs of what
Post calls a praxis "a testing of emerging consciousness against objective reality
through action" which the entire West Indian society was experiencing during
the 1930's.72 Both Associations had impressive membership; the St. Thomas
Association reported a membership of 150 in 1937, and the Clarendon
Association claimed a membership of over 800 in April, 1938; and Plain Talk
described the Clarendon Association in June 1938 as a "movement" with a
"large following into hundreds and thousands" 7 Both Associations clearly
articulated grievances which had been festering for many years and which, to
some extent, had been pointed to by successive British Commissions of inquiry.
It is not clear, however, what role these Associations or their members played in
the "disturbances" of May-June, 1938 which provoked the appointment of yet
another commission of inquiry. But it seems safe to assume that the Associations
were important focal points of rural discontent before, during and after the
disturbances. Rumble of the Clarendon Association obviously saw himself as a
political leader, even a martyr. He said that he was prepared to take his campaign
against landlords and "the rich men of Upper Clarendon" into "meetings on the
street" and beyond:
"If need be, I am prepared to give up my life for the improvement of
my country and its people... In jail or out of jail, I shall carry on this
agitation, until all tenants become landowners."74
III. Peasant Riots and Rebellions
The oligarchic political system which endured in the West Indies before and
after Emancipation allowed few opportunities for the ventilation of grievances
or for formal political action by the mass of the population to remove the
sources of grievances. Planters (proprietors, attorneys and overseers of estates)
and merchants had completely dominated the legislatures before Emancipation.
After Emancipation, little attempt was made to involve representatives of the
ex-slaves in the conduct of public business. The franchise remained extremely
narrow, and, therefore, the Assemblies continued to be unrepresentative of and
unresponsive to the needs of the majority of the population. But when it seemed
possible that the gradual ascession of the ex-slaves to the franchise might
endanger the planters' political power, the planters, encouraged by the Colonial
Office, quickly voted their Assemblies out of existence. By that time, the
bankruptcy of the Assemblies was fully apparent; Sir Henry Taylor, a former
official of the Colonial Office, said in 1865 that they had been "guilty of sins of
neglect and mismanagement, and refusal of money for the education, the
administration of justice by paid magistrates, and the protection of property by
a sufficient Police" 7s
Crown Colony government, which gave a decisive voice in policy matters to
the governor and the appointed officials, was introduced into all the territories,
except Barbados, by 1877.76 From the Colonial Office's point of view, the new
form of government would immensely improve the quality and impartiality of
administration. The new officers were instructed "to show themselves able to
withstand the pressures of any one class or idea, or interest", and "to maintain
that calmness and impartiality of judgement which should belong to the
Governor of an English colony."77
But it was unlikely that the performance of Crown Colony government could
match these hopes. The plantation, after all, still dominated the landscape and
the economy; and the planters constituted the "society" of which the governor
was the ornament and ceremonial head. Moreover, the planters still retained
extensive political power which was based on their social and economic
influence exercised at the parish level. "At that level", as Post has pointed out
for Jamaica, "the plantocracy controlled the major segments of the economy,
through land ownership, and through their ability to control new institutions
developing since 1865, like banana buying agencies and agricultural credit
banks."78 In addition, they could extend this influence through the office of
Custos Rotulorum, membership of the Parochial Boards, appointments to the local
magistracy and membership of the new Legislative Council. Not surprisingly, few
governors managed to carry out the Colonial Office's new Instructions.79
In such a situation, grievances felt among the depressed sections of the
community tended to be expressed in vociferous and even violent terms. Protest
demonstrations, which often precipitated riots, and riots were a feature of the
society's existence. Sometimes, local grievances produced a local protest and
disorder; for instance, toll gates in Westmoreland Jamaica in February 1859,
suspected police brutality in Kingston Jamaica in 1903, increased water rates in
Port-of-Spain Trinidad in 1903. On other occasions, the issues were wider:
government regulations to restrict the Carnival and Hosea celebrations in
Trinidad during 1881 and 1884, the attempt to inflict the sentence of public
flogging on a coloured youth convicted of perjury in Castries St. Lucia in 1844,
a sentence of two months' hard labour on a woman convicted of stealing a few
sugar canes in St. Vincent in 1855, corvee and land tax in St. Lucia in 1844 and
1849, land tax in Tobago in 1852. Urban workers and estate labourers seem to
have taken the lead in most of these riots, but occasionally, artisans and peasants
and even "respectable members" of the Black and Coloured community also
participated, or clearly showed their sympathies for the rioters' cause.80 Yet, it
would be fair to say that on most of these occasions the objectives of the
demonstrators and rioters were clear cut, concrete and limited.
On two occasions, though, the disorder and rioting were sufficiently
widespread or the rioters' objectives general enough, at some stage, to allow us
to designate them as rebellions. These occasions were October 1865 at Morant
Bay in Jamaica, and 1934-39 in the West Indies. Peasants were deeply involved
on both occasions though not to the same extent on each occasion. Peasant
grievances and peasant action were mainly responsible for the 1865 rebellion.
But in the 1930's, though rural disorder existed almost independently of the
disorder in the towns and was sometimes more violent and prolonged, yet it was
the urban working classes which took the lead, and the centre of events
remained in the capital and large towns.
(a) The Morant Bay Rebellion
The Morant Bay riots were not widespread and were certainly not part of a
"most diabolical conspiracy to murder the white and coloured inhabitants" of
the island.81 They qualify as a rebellion because they were symptomatic of
general social and economic ills and because their leaders made an attempt,
during their course, to transform them into general rebellion with some broad
It seems fairly clear that no organized armed resistance to lawful authority
was at first planned by Paul Bogle and the peasants of Stony Gut and
neighboring parts of St. Thomas. These peasants, like many others around
Jamaica, were experiencing hardship caused by the continuing depression in the
sugar industry and the drought of 1865. These had produced low wages,
unemployment and burdensome taxation. The peasants were encouraged to
protest this situation by some Baptist ministers of religion and by a few
politicians. In their petitions and resolutions, they complained of neglect by
government and of specific planters' action: "the bad and shameful condition of
the roads in the mountain districts"; the destruction of peasants' crops by
planters' grazing herds of cattle which they could not fence out; the shortage of
land for cultivation; partiality in the dispensation of justice by the
planter-magistrates, particularly in cases involving title to and secure tenacy of
land. They asked the governor and the Queen for relief from this distress, for
improvement in the administration of justice and, particularly, for a share of the
extensive tracts of Back Lands and Queen's Land. The land issue was an
important cause of discontent. Peasants had found their expansion into Back
Lands and Crown Land blocked by legislation against squatting, trespassing and
destruction of the woodland, by rent charges through most of this land was
abandoned, and by resumption of ownership by planters who successfully
challenged in the law courts the peasants' rights of tenancy.82
Local manifestations of many of these grievances and peasant dissatisfaction
with the conduct of the parish's affairs combined with militant peasant
leadership at Stony Gut to produce the conditions for protest demonstrations
and, ultimately, for a peasant revolt. A tight community organization and a high
level of political consciousness were evident in this district. This was partly due
to the residents' contact with George William Gordon, a coloured planter,
politician and Native Baptist lay preacher who championed the cause of the
labourers and peasants in the Assembly and in the parish vestry. It was also due
to the activity and presence of the Native Baptist Church,83 and to the energy
and organizing ability of Paul Bogle. Bogle, like many of the Stony Gut
residents, was a peasant farmer. He was also the political agent for Gordon and a
deacon of the Native Baptist Church, and he had built a "large chapel" on his
own land. All this testified to his local influence and authority; one witness
before the Commission which investigated the rebellion described him as a "king
The riots started as large protest demonstrations in Morant Bay, designed to
impress the local magistrates and vestry with the gravity of the peasants'
grievances and the seriousness of the peasants' intent, and perhaps, even to
overawe them. The leaders of the Stony Gut community had written to the
governor, just before the outbreak, complaining of the "mean advantages that
have been taken of us from time to time" and threatening "to put our shoulders
to the wheel" if he did not offer them protection and redress. However, the
demonstration got out of control when, as has often happened in similar
situations in the West Indies, attempts were made to arrest the leaders of the
demonstration, and when, finally the Volunteers who had been called in to keep
the peace, were ordered to fire on the demonstrators who seemed to be
threatening the safety of the troops and of the vestry by their large numbers and
their refusal go disperse. Seven of the demonstrators were killed, and this
sparked off the riot. The Volunteers were attacked, some were killed and the
others routed, the vestry was besieged in the Court House and the rioters took
control of the town. The court house was later set on fire, and many vestry-men,
including the Custos of the parish, an Anglican parson and one black man, were
killed by Bogle's followers when they tried to escape.
At this stage, Bogle and his lieutenants tried to change the character of the
rising. Conscious of their own peril, they attempted to stave off the inevitable
retaliation by raising the standard of general revolt. They appealed to the
Negroes in the surrounding districts and to the Maroons84 at Hayfield to join
them in a war of "Colour for colour", "skin for skin" which would enable them
to take possession of the land and the country. They made plans to kill
particular white men and to seize their estates; and "warriors" were sent out to
realize these objectives. A few estates were plundered and a few white men killed
or attacked; in particular, Hire, the attorney who had been responsible for the
evictiongf many tenants on Back Lands in the districts around Stony Gut, was
murdered and his estate extensively plundered and damaged.
But the large scale rebellion never materialized. Bogle received little or no
support from the neighboring districts in St. Thomas, and none at all from
outside the parish; and the Maroons, after some hesitation, came out on the side
of government. The prompt show of force by the central government deterred
any would-be supporters from joining Bogle, and the troops snuffed out the
rebellion in three or four days. The "rebels" never made a stand against the
troops, and the troops suffered no casualties. But savage reprisals against the
rebels, suspected rebels and potential rebels continued for another three weeks.
The "terrible" retribution inflicted on the peasants 354 executed by sentence
of court-martial and 85 shot by the troops, over 1,000 houses and other
buildings destroyed, and 600 men and women flogged showed the extent of
the planters' panic, which itself suggested the persistence of conditions for
"social civil war" 85 in Jamaica.
However, the rebellion did bring, even if indirectly some gains for the
peasants. The Assembly, against which Eyre had been campaigning for some
time, was abolished in the atmosphere of panic which Eyre had skilfully helped
to heighten. The officials of the Crown Colony government which replaced it
were provided with a comprehensive programme of reform by the Colonial
Office. Priority was to be given to the reform of the administration of justice; no
reform, said the Colonial Office, "was of more importance than the reform of a
suspected and unsatisfactory administration of justice."86 The administration of
Sir John Peter Grant (1866-1874) fulfilled some of the Colonial Office's
sanguine expectations. He initiated reform of the administration of justice and
the Public Works Department; he established government savings banks and a
new medical service and started road improvement and irrigation projects."7 All
these reforms benefited the peasantry. But what was, perhaps, of greatest
advantage to them was the attempt to solve the problem of Back Lands. A new
Lands Department was established and doubtful titles were investigated, land in
illegal possession was recovered, Crown possession of land in arrears of payment
of taxes was affirmed and secure seven years' tenancy of Crown land was
From all of this it is clear that the sources of some of the grievances to which
Bogle and many other peasants had called attention were now being removed.
(b) The 1930's Rebellion
This was a rebellion because the "disturbances" touched most sections of the
community, involved the violent destruction of life and property,89 and had
clear reform objectives of higher wages, more work, more land and improved
social services. It was, as Gordon Lewis points out, "a revolt of West Indian
peasants and workers against a society in which, despite formal emancipation,
they were still regarded mainly as supplies of cheap labour to sugar kings and oil
barons in search of quick fortunes".90 The conditions which produced it were
familiar and obvious low wages, unemployment, limited migration
opportunities, rising prices, inadequate sanitation, housing and medical facilities
- and were graphically described by the Moyne Commission in 1939 and by the
various local Commissions which investigated the causes of disturbances.91
It is less easy to describe or evaluate the peasants' role in the rebellion mainly
because of the state of current research. Peasant grievances existed in plenty, but
we are not sure of what actions the peasants took to remove the sources of these
grievances. There is a suggestion that, at least in Jamaica, the peasants were
among the most militant rioters. Post's research indicates that the "greatest
militancy and intransigence" occurred in areas of banana cultivation in the
parishes of St. Mary and Portland. There, the banana carriers, who were both
labourers and banana cultivators, participated in the building of road blocks,
breaking of bridges, attacking and besieging of individuals in their houses. These
banana carriers wanted higher wages, more regular employment, reform of the
agency system in banana purchase, and, above all, more land for banana
cultivation.92 The quick and relatively high cash returns from banana cultivation
seems to have involved many of them in what has been described as "agricultural
gambling""93 the rapid exploitation of a lot of land through cash crop
production before disease or soil exhaustion forced its abandonment.
All this is, at least, suggestive of a conclusion. But, of even greater inferential
value, are the governments' subsequent actions on the land question, and some
of the peasants' reactions to these. First, all West Indian governments, during or
immediately after the disturbances, either launched or extended peasant land
settlement schemes, and started to provide agricultural instruction and credit
and marketing facilities for the peasants.94 Secondly, many of the strikers in the
rural areas of Jamaica ended their strikes only when the government announced
its "New Deal" for agriculture a land settlement scheme which was estimated
to cost 650,000.95
Thus it would appear that direct action by peasants was at least as important
as the recommendations of British Commissions in effecting melioration of the
conditions in which the peasants lived.
ASPECTS OF THE PRESENT CONFLICT BETWEEN
THE PLANTATION AND THE PEASANTRY IN THE WEST INDIES
The thesis which we want to advance in this part of the report is that up to
the present time, the development of the peasantry in the West Indies is
circumscribed by the existence of the plantation system. As indicated earlier,
this has been the pattern ever since emancipation of the slaves created the base
for the emergence of peasant producers. In spite of the considerable changes in
the social, economic and political order, the problems of the peasant
development remain inextricably bound up in a framework of institutional
relations not far different from that which existed during the slave plantation
In this section we hope to demonstrate that the strangle-hold of the
plantations has served to limit the accessibility of resources to the peasants and
that as a result the present-day situation still reflects a struggle by the peasantry
to break through an institutional setting that is biased toward its stagnation.
Jamaica is used as a case study in this exercise even though in a sense it is not
representative of many of the territories. But it is instructive to look at this
particular case because the opportunities for peasant development have been
greater there than for elsewhere in the region. For one thing, land was available
for peasant settlement even if this land was not of the best quality. For another,
government policies directed toward peasant development have been more
advanced than in the other territories. If it can be established that peasant
development has been limited in this case not withstanding the advantageous
conditions then it would be reasonable to assume that the fortunes of the
peasantry in other territories must have been worse; rather, could not have been
better. Some effort will, however, be made to relate the Jamaican experience to
that of the rest of the region in the summing up.
Peasant-Plantation Resource Competition
In the hundred and thirty odd years since Emancipation, the Jamaican
peasantry has not managed to secure much of the country's agricultural land and
other resources. What little they have achieved can hardly be maintained in the
face of continuing stiff competition from the plantations. In spite of attempts
by government to provide assistance in recent decades, incremental agricultural
resources tend to flow towards the plantation sector and the peasantry has been
forced to seek possibilities for advancement through migration and/or wage
work on plantations. Thus the situation has reverted to very much the same
pattern that existed just after Emancipation.
The distribution of land in farms in Jamaica.shows a very unequal pattern -
farms of under five acres in size (constituting the bulk of the peasantry)
represent 71 per cent of all farms in the country but together they occupy only
12 per cent of total farm acreage. On the other hand, plantations represent less
than 1 per cent (0.7%) of all farms; yet these occupy 56 per cent of total farm
acreage. When account is taken of differences in the quality of land in the two
sectors, the situation is even more grossly unequal. For whereas the plantation
lands are usually flat and fertile, peasant lands tend on the whole to be hilly,
rocky, and inaccessible. In a recent exercise, for example, Norton and Cumper
found this generalization to be valid. Using census data, the authors began with
the following premise:
...the geological boundary of the alluvial (sedimentary) deposits has
been taken as the approximate limit of the areas in which large-scale,
or plantation, cultivation is likely to occur ....Small-scale agriculture
is practised throughout the island, but it is in the less favourable
areas such as the lower and less precipitous of the hill slopes and in
the river valleys, where these are accessible, that it is the main
The authors found a distinct correlation between peasant and plantation types in
accordance with the geographic regions as defined above.
It merits repetition that this situation exists in spite of relatively intensive
attempts by government to assist the settlement of peasants. Government land
settlement schemes were first developed and have proceeded further in Jamaica
than elsewhere in the West Indies. But these schemes have been limited by the
fact that land which became available for settlement was what the plantations no
longer required for their own use or alternatively was mountainous Crown Land
previously in forests. Usually, it was the least viable plantations which sold out
to government and their viability was not unrelated to the quality of land. Where
plantations disposed of a part of their holdings, it was also the most marginal
areas which were sold. Redwood has estimated that of all the land settlements
launched by government between 1929 and 1949, only 4 per cent were situated
on the most fertile soil type (alluvium).97 The government programme also
encouraged the establishment of under-sized farms. The politics of settlement
dictated that each property acquired be divided between as many people (votes)
as possible. Thus, we find that "about fifty per cent of the land holdings on the
settlements are less than four acres in size. One direct consequence of these
uneconomic holdings has been to force the farmer to find 'outside work' .... it is
estimated that thirteen per cent of the settlers under these schemes supplement
their income by seasonal work and as many as twentyfour per cent in regular
The position of the peasants in respect of land has varied over time depending
on the fortunes of the main plantation crop sugar and on demographic
factors. So long as land (of whatever quality) was available and the fortunes of
sugar not very bright, the peasants continued to drift from the plantation
lowlands into the mountainous backlands. Such was the case up until about
1930's. But more recently, it appears that this trend has been reversed. In a 1954
study of one of the major plantation parishes, for example, Cumper discovered
"a considerable local migration from the peasant areas of the parish into the
cane lands" which he attributed to two factors: the rationalization of the sugar
industry and its rising fortunes since 1938 and the limited absorptive capacity of
the infertile peasant mountain areas in the face of expanding population.99
In a more recent survey of land and population in the sugar belt of Jamaica,
Alan Eyre noted that:
There are.... populous centres which are entirely rural. These are
associated with zones of small-scale subsistence farming on the
periphery of the cane zone. The important fact about these centres
is that while their "subsistence" areas has decreased or remained
static, the population has in many cases more than doubled... Some
of these peripheral centres have so increased in population that there
is not the slightest possibility that without massive depopulation
they can never again be considered basically villages of subsistence
farmers It is quite clear that the nature of these erstwhile
"subsistence" districts has changed rapidly as they become
increasingly hemmed in by expanding capitalized large-scale
Thus it appears that although in the earlier period there was scope for peasant
expansion in the mountainous interior of Jamaica, more recently these
opportunities have become increasingly restricted with the growth of population
in these areas. Shortage of land is, therefore, likely to continue to constrain
development of the peasantry as long as plantations remain entrenched on the
best available land.
So long as there is a shortage of land for peasant expansion, plantations are
able to secure the labour services of peasants at relatively low wage rates. With
the expansion of population on a limited land base, the tendency has been
toward smaller and smaller average farm sizes in the peasant sector. These small
farms are not of a size sufficient to fully utilize the labour of the peasant and his
family nor to generate sufficient income to sustain them. Consequently, the
plantations have an advantage over peasant farming even in securing the labour
services of the peasants (whenever it needs them).
More generally, plantations have a distinct advantage over peasants insofar as
they compete for hired labour in the labour market. First, the more advanced
techniques of the plantations result in a higher labour productivity making
possible the payment of higher wage rates. Secondly employer-employee
relations tend to be more impersonal on plantations than on small farms.
Thirdly, plantations provide a greater volume of work than any individual small
farm. As a result of these considerations, peasants have great difficulty in
attracting hired labour unless they follow patterns set out by the plantations.
The closer peasants are located to plantations, the greater the influence. In a
recent survey, for example, M.G. Smith found that:
..small settlers located in or near to an important property or estate
area, tend to adopt the estate patterns of task, piece or job work;
and that labourers faced with the competing alternatives of rural
small farm, estate, and urban or semi-urban employment, shift away
from the former towards the better paid or more regular
The same report indicated that even where small settlers are capable of paying
wage rates equal to or greater than plantations near to them, labour is likely to
be more available to the latter on account of the greater amount of work
As with land, so with labour, peasants are unable to secure adequate supplies
of these resources because the plantations have such a commanding position
resulting from historical and other factors. This pattern remains basically the
same for other resources not yet considered.
Capital and Credit
Plantations came to be established in the West Indies as a result of
metropolitan (European) capital and enterprise. The West Indies became
essentially satellite economies of Europe with the estalyihment of many
institutions geared to maintaining this link. Thus, for example, plantation
enterprises in the West Indies can draw on their metropolitan parent companies
for financing. In addition, the banking system which developed was directly
geared to financing of plantation production and the associated import-export
trade. At most times, therefore the plantations have been able to secure
sufficient credit for whatever capital expansion was contemplated. Peasant
producers, on the other hand, have had very limited access to outside financial
capital and have had to rely almost exclusively on their own limited savings and
personal loans from friends and/or relatives. Even in more recent times when
governments have attempted to provide credit assistance, this was either
insufficient or made too heavy demands on the peasants, particularly when it
involved the surrender of land title as a security for loans.'03
In Jamaica where sugar is the main plantation crop a recent study revealed
that "despite the greater contribution made by agriculture other than sugar cane
to the G.D.P., commercial banks have accommodated sugar agriculture to a
greater extent than all other agricultural products".104 More generally, Clive
Thomas has shown that expatriate firms engaged in export production have the
most ready access to sources of finance among all areas of economic activity in
the West Indies.
These firms are able both to provide the security expected while at
the same time they only require credit for short periods e.g.,
between crops. It must be recognized that these firms can also call
upon two other sources of short-term accommodation. They can
borrow on accounts with Head Office or through their Head Office
from banks in the Head Office country.'05
In examining the Guyanese experience, Thomas goes on to point out that the
nature of the commercial banking system is such that "agricultural production
for the home market and small-scale industry centred on the same market find it
almost difficult to match the existing demands and standards of the commercial
Quite apart from the reluctance of peasants to surrender their title to land as
security for loan, there is the consideration that in many instances these farmers
do not in fact have sufficient proof of ownership. As Braithwaite puts it, "the
nature of the lower-class West Indian family, with its relatively loose
organization, and its failure to achieve any legal recognition has led to the
existence of a great deal of confusion in the tenure of land" 107 Because of the
problems of unclear title and of joint ownership of land by the family, the
majority of West Indian peasants have had to exist without adequate title to the
land they cultivate. Thus, from the points of view of both the nature of the
capital market and the structure of peasant society, peasant producers are unable
to secure the financial capital required for the expansion of production.
Knowledge and Technology
Plantation enterprises in the West Indies are engaged in export crop
production, and peasant producers, while also producing crops for export are
chiefly engaged in producing foodstuffs for domestic consumption. The legacy
of plantation export production has resulted in the accumulation of a
considerable body of technical knowledge relating to the production of export
crops. Both the plantations and governments in the region have invested
significantly in research related to export crop production whereas little or no
technical knowledge exists regarding peasant-grown commodities. Edwards has
shown that agricultural research in Jamaica has been geared excessively toward
export crop production. "The volume of research effort .... directed to the
problems of the sugar cane and bananas was substantially greater than the
average for all the other products.108
It is not surprising, therefore, that the level of technology in peasant
production tends to be much lower than that of the plantations. Lack of
knowledge combined with low levels of productivity and incomes account for
the gross disparities in levels of technology. These disparities are revealed by the
following data: farms of over 500 acres use on the average 23 h.p. of tractor
power and 352 cwts. of fertilizer per 100 acres of cultivated land, whereas farms
of under 5 acres use zero h.p. of tractor power and only 45 cwts. of fertilizers on
the average per 100 acres.109
Whereas plantations have the resources to invest in agricultural research,
individual peasants do not have to rely on the output of government research.
But because of the importance of export crops in the economies and the
"plantation psychology" of government officials, very little of government's
research expenditure has been chanelled into crops grown chiefly by the
peasants. Here, again, the peasantry is in a relatively disadvantageous position.
The Static Position of the Peasantry
From the discussion in the foregoing section it seems evident that the scope
for advancement of the peasantry is severely restricted by the control of
plantations over the basic agricultural resources of Jamaica in particular -
land and capital. The limited access of peasants to these resources means that
over time peasant production will continuously fall behind the growth of
peasant population with the result that the latter will be forced to migrate or
increasingly engage in wage work on the plantations. Given the historical and
psychological reluctance of the peasantry to engage in work on the plantations
and the present limited migration opportunities, possibilities for yet another
peasant revolt sometime in the future are not far-fetched. Such a revolution
would have to guarantee that peasant farmers will have access to resources.now
controlled by the plantations and which are at present not within their grasp.
The pattern of peasant-plantation resource competition described above for
Jamaica applies with some modification to many of the other West Indian
territories. In the case of land, the situation may be more acute in Barbados and
St. Kitts but a country like Guyana still has considerable land resources to
accommodate both peasants and plantations, and there is no evidence of
excessive peasant population pressure on land in Trinidad. Even though
foreign-owned plantations are not important in Barbados and in the Leeward
and Windward Islands, the nature of the commercial banking system with its bias
against peasant production applies to a similar extent as has been described for
Jamaica and Guyana. The position with respect to knowledge and technology is
the same throughout the regions.
In addition to the resource bias, several policy considerations and
institutional arrangements serve to further impede development of the peasantry
in the West Indies. In relation to marketing and prices, for example, we find that
because of the plantation legacy the infrastructure for the processing and
distribution of export crops is highly developed while that for domestic output
is not. Again, most of the export crops have guaranteed markets in the
metropolis (often with negotiated prices that bear some relation to the costs of
production, as for sugar) while peasant production for the domestic market is
forced to compete with food imports from other countries. Furthermore, a great
deal of foreign economic relations is fostered by government activity which
brings benefits to export producers. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that even
the peasants participate significantly in export crop production and in so doing
are brought into further dependence on plantation activity. In the case of sugar
cane, for example, peasant production depends on processing facilities provided
by plantations. And even though sugar production is circumscribed by
governmental regulations, this dependence still limits the extent to which
peasants can benefit from the processing of raw materials they produce.
On balance then, it seems reasonable to conclude that peasant development in
the West Indies remains constrained by the institutional legacy of the plantation
system. So long as the agricultural resources of the region remain as scarce as
they have been in the past, the peasantry are unlikely to secure a sufficient base
for expansion of production and advancement of their levels of living. Unless
some revolutionary change occurs, the position of the peasantry is likely to
remain static for some time to come.
1. In Foreword to R. Guerra y Sanchez, Sugar and Society in the Caribbean New Haven,
1964, pp. xx-xxi.
2. West India Committee Protest against the end of Apprenticeship 26th March 1838, in
West India Committee Minute Books (London).
3. British Colonial Office Paper (C.O.) 253/61, The Humble Petition pf. the St. Lucia
Planters against the end of Apprenticeship. McGregor to Lord Glenelg, 5th June 1838).
4. Report of Royal Commission 1897, Cmd. 8655, London 1897, p. 18.
5. See W.G. Sewell, The Ordeal of Free Labour in the West Indies, New York, 1862; G.
Eisner, Jamaica 1830-1930, Manchester 1961, p. 211; W.K. Marshall, "Social and Economic
Problems in the Windward Islands, 1838-1865", in Andic and Mathews, The Caribbean in
Transition, Rio Piedras, 1965, pp. 247-252. The tenacy regulations were part of the local
Emancipation Acts. The acts allowed untroubled occupancy of "house and ground" on the
estates provided the ex-slaves worked "truly and faithfully" on the estates for the wages the
6. In 1838 Barbados (166 sq. mis.) had as large a slave population as Trinidad (1,864 sq.
mis.), and Antigua (108 sq. mis.) had more slaves than Guyana (83,000 sq. mis.).
7. Appendix A. Report of D. Morris on Agricultural Resources, p. 82, Guyana had 20
million uncultivated arable acres.
8. Ibid pp. 96-136. Jamaica was estimated to possess 272,068 acres, and Trinidad 366,157
acres, while most of the mountainous areas in St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and nearly the
whole interior of Guyana was declared to be Crown land.
9. See. C.O. 260/65 (Grey's despatches to Lord Stanley on 8th May and 31st May 1845)
for information on estate encroachment on Crown lands in St. Vincent.
10. See Lord Olivier, The Myth of Governor Eyre, London 1933, pp. 176-181; F.L.
Engledow, Report on Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and Veterinary Matters (W.I. Royal
Commission) Cmd. 6608, London HMSO, 1945, p. 32.
11. Col. Hay's description in C.O. 253/88 (Reid to Earl Grey, 25 Oct. 1847).
12. Report on Agriculture, etc. p. 32.
13. Olivier (1933), p. 177.
14. Eisner, p. 222.
15. See Olivier (1933) pp. 176-181; Eisner, pp. 214-216; R. Farley, "The Rise of the
Peasantry in British Guiana", Social and Economic Studies Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 93-95.
16. This was particularly true of the Windward Islands. For example, the St. Vincent
legislature ignored the Colonial Office's directive that squatters could not be evicted after
more than one year's "quiet possession", and adopted legislation in 1844 to permit eviction
after three years of occupancy. Eventually, the Colonial Office offered a compromise of no
eviction after two years' occupancy.
17. The Trinidad legislature raised the price of Crown land from 1.10.0. per acre to
2.10.0. per acre in 1911 (E.E. Williams, Inward Hunger, London, 1969, p. 15).
18. See D.G. Hall, Free Jamaica, New Haven, 1959, p. 20; Farley, pp. 99-100, Eisner, pp.
19. Agriculture in the West Indies, Colonial No. 182 London HMSO 1942, p. 16.
20. See Engledow, pp. 34-35.
21. See M.J. and F.S. Herkovits, Trinidad Village, New York 1947, pp. 53-55; W.K.
Marshall "Metayage Cultivation in the sugar industry of the British Windward Islands,
1838-1865", Jamaica Historical Review, Vol. V No. 1, pp. 51-53; W.A. Lewis, The
Evolution of the Peasantry in the British West Indies, Colonial Office Pamphlet No. 656, pp.
15-17; M.G. Smith, Dark Puritan. U.W.I., Jamaica, 1963, pp. 41-65.
22. See, for instance, H.M. Grant's evidence before the 1842 Select Committee on West
Indian Colonies, in British Parliamentary Papers (P.P.) 1842 Vol. XIII.
23. Cmd. 8655, 1897, p. 17.
24. See L.J. Ragatz, The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean 1763-1833,
25. See Hall; R.W. Beachey, The British West Indies Sugar Industry in the late 19th
century. Oxford, 1957.
26. Eric Williams, "The Importance of Small Scale Farming in the Caribbean", Small
Scale Fanning in the Caribbean, Caribbean Commission, Trinidad, 1954, p. 4.
27. See Farley, pp. 98-101; H. Paget, "The Free Village System in Jamaica", in Caribbean
Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 38-51; P.D. Curtin, Two Jamaicans, Cambridge, U.S.A., 1955,
28. Farley, pp. 100-102 Depression in the sugar industry probably caused a slowing down
of peasant development in Guyana during the 1850's.
29. Williams (1954), p. 4. These farmers produced in that year one-third of the sugar cane
30. Marshall (1965), p. 252; W.K. Marshall, Notes on Peasant Development in the West
Indies since 1838", Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 17 No. 3, 1968, p. 257.
31. Eisner, pp. 53, 80.
32. Lewis (1936), pp. 14, 36-40.
33. Report of Royal Commission, 1897, p. 17.
34. The following table indicates the recent percentage distribution on the land of
holdings of different sizes:-
Holdings Holdings Holdings
under 5 acres between 5-100 acres over 100 acres
Jamaica 11.8 32.2 56
Trinidad & Tobago 12.5 40.1 47.4
Grenada 22.9 29.9 47.2
Antigua 26.9 14.0 59.1
Barbados 13.4 4.9 81.7
Dominica 12.7 32.0 55.3
Montserrat 16.1 15.5 68.4
St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla 12.5 8.7 78.8
St. Lucia 14.9 37.5 47.6
St. Vincent 22.5 28.0 49.5
(Source: A Digest of West Indian Agricultural Statistics. U.W.I. St. Augustine, Trinidad,
1965, p. 14).
35. Lord Olivier, Jamaica, the Blessed Isle, London, 1936, p. 272; Agriculture in the West
Indies, p. 15.
36. Peasant Agriculture in the Leeward and Windward Islands, Report to Colonial Office
58948-1, Trinidad, 1945, p. 14.
37. See Eisner, pp. 177, 318-371.
38. Report of Agriculture, etc., p. 45.
39. This was the opinion of Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Guyana, quoted in Williams
(1954), p. 4.
40. This opinion was expressed by the West India Committee in England, by some of the
local legislatures and by historians and writers like Herman Merivale, Thomas Carlyle, J.A.
Froude, Anthony Trollope. See E.V. Goveia, A Study on the Historiography of the British
West Indies Mexico, 1956. pp. 140-155.
41. Williams (1954), p. 4.
42. C.O. 253/88 (Reid to Early Grey, 25th October 1847) Col. Hay's despatch on land
43. C.O. 290/4 Child's Stipendiary'Magistrate's Report, June 1853.
44. There was an earlier protest and riot against corvee in St. Lucia during 1844, and a
protest and riot against the land tax in Tobago in 1852.
45. Five estates were damaged. The cost of repairs on three of them was estimated at
46. The only evidence for this conclusion was that one of the refugees did organize some
Negroes for classes in adult education, that another of the refugees had been heard to assert
"an equal right to the soil in all the children of God"; and that one officer heard the
Revolutionary Song of France during the rioting.
47. C.O. 253/101 (Darling to Earl Grey 9th and 12th March, 1849); C.O. 253/98
(Colebrooke to Earl Grey, 4th April, 1849).
48. Report of the Royal Commission, 1897. p. 18.
49. Williams (1954). p. 2.
50. Eisner, pp. 223-224; Shepherd, pp. 19, 123; Report on the Sugar Industry in the West
Indies, by Lord Olivier and W.M. Semple Cmd. 3517, London 1930, pp. 58, 88, 111.
51. Report on Sugar Industry, 1930, p. 26.
52. See Herskovits, pp. 76-77.
53. See A.F. And D. Wells, Friendly Societies in the West Indies, Report on a Survey,
London HMSO, 1953, also Herskovits, pp. 257-261.
54. R. Colon-Torres, "Agricultural Credit in the Caribbean", Caribbean Economic
Review, Vol. IV, Nos. 1 & 2, p. 95; "Land Tenure in the Caribbean", Caribbean Economic
Review. Vol. II, No. 2, pp. 90-92, 107-111; Eisner, pp. 228-230.
55. "Land Tenure in the Caribbean", Caribbean Economic Review, Vol. II, No. 2, p. 83.
56. G.K. Lewis, The Growth of the Modern West Indies, London 1968, p. 172.
57. Eisner, p. 228.
58. G.K. Lewis, p. 172.
59. Herskovits, p. 257.
60. See Eric Williams, History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, London, 1964, pp.
216-224, G.K. Lewis, pp. 203-5.
61. P. Emmanuel, Crown Colony Politics in Grenada, 1917-1951, M.Sc. Thesis U.W.I.
1969, pp. 113-114.
62. K.W.J. Post, The Politics of Protest in Jamaica, 1938: Some Problems of Analysis and
Conceptualization, Department of Government, U.W.I. 1969 (Mimeo.) p. 21.
63. Plain Talk, Kingston, Jamaica, 22nd Dec. 1935, letter from the St. Thomas Tax and
64. Plain Talk, 5th Dec. 1936, letter from W.D. Walters.
65. Plain Talk, 12th. March 1938, letter from R.E. Rumble.
66. Plain Talk, 23rd. Nov., 30th. Nov., 3rd. Dec., 1935, letters from D. Reid; 5th. Dec.
1936, letter from W.D. Walters.
67. Plain Talk, 22nd. Dec. 1935, letter from D. Reid; llth Jan. 1936, letter from H.N.
Gordon; 9th. April, 7th. May 1938, letters from R.E. Rumble.
68. Plain Talk, llth. Jan. 1936, 10th. July 1937, letters from H.N Gordon.
69. Plain Talk, 20th. Feb. 1937, 19th Feb. 1938, 9th. April 1938, letters from R.E.
70. Plain Talk, 6th March 1937, letter from Rumble written on behalf of members of a
branch of the J.A.S.
71. Plain Talk, 19th March 1938, 21st. May 1938, letters from R.E. Rumble.
72. Post, p. 21.
73. Plain Talk, 11th June 1938, editorial.
74. Plain Talk, 21st May 1938, letter from R.E. Rumble. The land settlement scheme
adopted by the government in June 1938 did not satisfy Rumble. He did not think it would
help "the poor man". He suggested that everyone should get a lot "large enough to satisfy
himself and the Government". (26th Nov. 1938).
75. Taylor's letter to Colonial Secretary, Cardwell, of 29th July 1865.
76. See R.V. Sires, "Government in the British West Indies: An Historical Outline". Social
and Economic Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 119-121.
77. Quoted in Sources of West Indian History by F.R. Augier and S.C. Gordon, London
1962, pp. 116-117.
78. Post, pp. 19-20.
79. For an evaluation of Crown Colony Government, See G.K. Lewis, pp. 97-117, and
Williams (1964), pp. 167-195.
80. This was true of the riots provoked by heavy and impolitic sentences in St. Vincent
and St. Lucia.
81. This is Governor Eyre's description. This deliberate exaggeration was part of his
campaign to secure the abolition of the Assembly and, also, official commendation for his
high handed actions in Jamaica during the outbreak.
82. See Lord Olivier, The Myth of Governor Eyre, for a full treatment of the rebellion.
See too, Royal Commission on Jamaica, 1866, Report and Minutes of Evidence, London
HMSO, 1866; Hall, pp. 236-264.
83. See Curtin, pp. 32-34, 163-164.
84. Maroons were the descendants of runaway slaves who had managed, after much
fighting with the British, to establish themselves in some of the mountainous areas of the
island. See R.C. Dallas, History of the Maroons, 2 Vols., London 1803.
85. The phrase is borrowed from G.K. Lewis, p. 89.
86. Augier and Gordon, p. 117.
87. See Olivier, Jamaica the Blessed Isle, pp. 189-191.
88. Eisner, pp. 221-222.
89. Forty-seven people lost their lives in the disturbances.
90. The Growth of the Modern West Indies, p. 88.
91. See West Indian Royal Commission Report, Cmd. 6607, London HMSO 1954; Report
of the Commission appointed to enquire into the Disturbances which occurred in Jamaica
between the 23rd May and 8th June 1938, Kingston 1938. Report of Commission
appointed to enquire into the disturbances which occurred in Barbados on 27th July and
subsequent days, Bridgetown 1937; Eric Williams, History of the People of Trinidad and
Tobago, pp. 229-235; O.W. Phelps, "The Rise of the Labour Movement in Jamaica", Social
and Economic Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 417-435.
92. Post, pp. 8-10.
93. G. St. J. Orde Browne, Labour Conditions in the West Indies, London HMSO, 1939,
Cmd. 6070; F.L. Engledow, Report on Agriculture, etc., p. 43.
94. See "Land Tenure in the Caribbean" Caribbean Economic Review, Vol. 2 No. 2;
W.A. Lewis, "Issues in Land Settlement Policy" Caribbean Economic Review, Vol. 3, Nos. 1
& 2; Colon-Torres, "Agricultural Credit in the Caribbean", Caribbean Economic Review,
Vol. 4, Nos. 1 & 2.
95. Post, pp. 10-11.
96. A.V. Norton and G.E. Cumper," 'Peasant','Plantation' and 'Urban' Communities in
Rural Jamaica: A Test of the Validity of the Classification", Social and Economic Studies,
Vol. 15, No. 4, p. 342.
97. Paul Redwood, A Statistical Survey of Land Settlements in Jamaica 1929-1949,
98. H. Brewster and C.Y. Thomas, The dynamics of West Indian Economic Integration
(University of the West Indies, Jamaica, 1967) p. 117.
99. G.E. Cumper "A Modern Jamaican Sugar Estate", Social and Economic Studies, Vol.
3, No. 2, p. 121.
100. Alan Eyre, Land and Population in the Sugar Belt of Jamaica, Dept. of Geography,
University of the West Indies, n.d. mimeo, p. 8.
101. M.G. Smith, A Report on Labour Supply in Rural Jamaica (The Govt. Printer,
Kingston, 1956), p. 3. Univ. of the West Indies.
102. For instance, "Some properties were paying 2/3 a hundred to pick and husk
coconuts while adjoining small settlers were paying 2/6 to 3/-; but in fact a man could make
as much or more per day's work on the property at this task than on any of the small
settlers' holdings" (Smith, Ibid, p. 18).
103. McMorris has argued, for example, that peasants have been rightly reluctant to take
up credit opportunities which require the surrender of their title to land as a security for
loans (see C.S. McMorris, Small Farm Financing in Jamaica, I.S.E.R., Univ. College of the
West Indies, 1957).
104. B.C.H. Gayle, The Financing of Sugar by Commercial Banks in Jamaica, (mimeo.
report, Dept. of Economics, Univ. of the West Indies, 1968), p. 8.
105. C.Y. Thomas, Monetary and Financial Arrangements in a Dependent Monetary
Economy (1.S.E.R., Univ. of the West Indies, Jamaica, 1965) p. 67.
106. Ibid., p. 68.
107. Lloyd Braithwaite, "Social and Political Aspects of Rural Development in the West
Indies" Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 271.
108. D.T. Edwards, "An Economic View of Agricultural Research in Jamaica", Social and
Economic Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, p. 333.
109. From D.T. Edwards "Agricultural Development in Jamaica 1943-1961", a paper
presented to the Third West Indian Agricultural Economics Conference Univ. of the West
Indies, Jamaica, April 1968. p. 12.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL SCALE FARMING:
TWO CASES FROM THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
Reprinted by courtesy of Neth. Journal of Agri. Science, Vol. 16 (1968)
Two very different cases of small scale farm development in the
Commonwealth Caribbean are reviewed. One is Jamaican small farming, which
responded little to considerable efforts made for its improvement by the
Government agencies. The other is market gardening at Aranjuez, Trinidad
where production grew at an extremely rapid rate in the face of intense and
antagonistic competition between the gardeners and without significant direct
assistance by official agencies. Proximate explanations are drawn for the sharply
contrasted performances, and some conclusions are offered.
Two quite different cases have been chosen for consideration. One is well
established but apparently highly resistant to change while the other is changing
very rapidly. Both cases have been the subject of unusually thorough studies'
The first case is that of small scale or peasant farming, as it was practised in
Jamaica in the 1950's. The second case is the small scale production of
vegetables in a particular part of Trinidad, Aranjuez.
Small scale farming came into existence in Jamaica following the
emancipation of the slave population in the early part of the 19th century. In
1954, farms of from I to 25 acres numbered about 150,000 out of a total
number of farms of about 200,000 and occupied over 700,000 acres of the total
area of about 2,000,000 acres of land in farms. The small farms used a
considerable part of the resources employed in agriculture, and provided almost
one-half of the total agricultural product, and virtually all the locally produced
foods, with two or three important exceptions.
The farms actually studied in Jamaica averaged about 10 acres, of which 3.5
acres were cropped. The average value of capital investment was 6502 of which
three-quarters was farm rather than domestic capital, virtually all in the form of
land, growing crops and livestock. Annual farm expenditure, other than on hired
labour, averaged 34 per farm. The farm households consisted, on average, of six
persons: about sixty per cent of the farm people were adults and the remainder
were less than 14 years of age. The hours worked by household and other labour
averaged between 3,500 and 4,000 hours per farm per annum.
Small farming in Aranjuez differs in many respects from Jamaican small
farming. The total area is only 450 acres, and is held in average areas of only 1.5
acres. Cropping is restricted to vegetables, for the nearby Port-of-Spain and
adjoining suburban markets. In fact the area is confined within a suburban
setting. It is bounded on two sides by the main roads which connect the capital
city with its more distant suburban areas. The gardeners themselves reside in
areas which are shared with families engaged in urban employment.
The layout of the gardens has an important bearing on the changing vegetable
production systems. The area is flat and open, being unobstructed by buildings
and foliage. The small average size of plot, the distribution of a gardener's
holding between scattered plots, and the many paths which cross the area, all
facilitate the spread of information on the state of an individual farmer's crops
and the practices associated with them.
The main purpose in reviewing these contrasting cases is to throw light on
both the obstacles to and the process of rapid small farm development. It is also
hoped that some lessons of more general relevance can be drawn from a
discussion of the two particular cases.
The Jamaican Case
While it is not possible to produce statistics on the growth of output over an
appreciable period of time for the particular small scale farms studied, data are
available for the small farm sector to which the small farms studied belonged
(Edwards, 1968). Thus between 1943 and 1961 the output of the farms of less
than 25 acres increased by only about 15%, measured in real terms. (The output
of all other farms increased by 76% over the same period.) This very slow growth
in output occurred in spite of considerable efforts on the part of Government
agencies, supported by substantial resources, to bring about small farm
What accounted for the sluggish growth? Were the farmers uninterested in
higher incomes? Were they unprepared to change their farming systems? In short,
what were the possibilities of bringing about farm development in the Jamaican
environment? The review of the Jamaican case will address itself to these
The objective of increased income
There is ample evidence to show that the small farm families desired higher
incomes: for reinvestment in farming, to provide more adequate food and
clothes, to extend and improve housing, to educate the children, and to establish
adequate liquid reserves. But it is equally clear that the farmer's objectives were
more complicated than simply the maximisationn of income'
The farmer's objective was to produce income both in the near and the distant
future3 His immediate aim was to obtain sufficient income to sustain his family
and to maintain or to expand his farming. At the same time he wished to ensure
security in his old age and to acquire ownership of land, which might be left to
his children and possibly his wife. The objective of obtaining income was
influenced by two other aims: to be accepted by the community, and to have
maximum independence. Signs of a substantial increase in income were likely to
bring increased prestige but might also earn resentment: while a substantial fall
in income would almost certainly bring lower status and loss of prestige in the
community. Greater dependence on other persons would follow an appreciable
fall in income; a greater degree of independence would crown a profitable
The farmers had goals for their farming practice which governed the means by
which their income and security objectives would be realized through farming.
They tried to promote what they regarded as good small farming, which involved
having most of the farm land under 'good' cultivation. The crops should be well
tended, according to the practice of the district, the ground between crops
should be clean weeded. A crop like banana should be well pruned (that is, dead
leaves should be trimmed off and surplus young banana plants removed) and
operations should be 'timely'; but it was not regarded as desirable that improved
techniques, such as fertilizing, should be employed. Still the crops should 'look
good', that is appear healthy and likely to give good yields.
The farmers were concerned about maintaining the fertility of their land so
that they could obtain what they regarded as good crop yields. They practised
soil conservation measures, which prevented yields from falling excessively over
the period for which the land was used continuously. The land was then
abandoned for a few years while it 'rested' and fertility was rebuilt.
There was a widespread feeling that the farms should produce certain crops,
the particular ones depending on the area. Thus in some areas banana was
expected to dominate the other crops; banana should occupy all the land on
which it would grow while the other crops were to be fitted in as best they
could. It was considered necessary in all the areas that more than a few crops
should be grown, some to provide food for the household and some to provide
Scope for improvement of the farming systems
Jamaican small farming has been strongly criticised on 'technical' grounds. In
the words of a Mission from the International Bank for Reconstitution and
Development (I.B.R.D., 1952, p. 13), the farmers were in general the
most inefficient, partly because their agricultural techniques were the most
backward" Thus even though labour was applied quite intensively to land (at
about 600 hours per acre of crop land per year) the yields of individual crops
were very low and erosion occurred at an appreciable rate. The effect was that
even though the farmers worked hard and the prices they received for their
products were generally very favourable by international standards, the level of
living they enjoyed was quite low.
In the circumstances a large number of improved practices were recommended
for use on Jamaican small farms. Their application would undoubtedly have led
to higher yields and (if increased aggregate production would not have reduced
product prices excessively), also to higher net incomes. But the farmers were not
prepared to introduce most of the practices. How can this 'perversity' be
Reactions to the use of improved practices: the pattern of entrepreneurship
Most improved practices were rejected by Jamaican small farmers, but in some
instances improved practices have been introduced into the farming systems. The
recognition of these exceptions assists in appreciating the whole pattern of
entrepreneurship in its reaction to potential innovations.
Two sets of exceptional circumstances may be identified as conducive to the
adoption of new practices. These are situations of crisis, and situations where the
ecological environment is radically changed. Thus there have been occasions
when diseases have so severely affected crops that the farmers have been
prepared to introduce the simple and cheap, yet highly effective treatments. The
introduction of a system of irrigation throughout an area by changing the
ecological conditions made possible the highly profitable replacement of familiar
'catch' crops by 'new crops' (such as rice), which led to the widespread
introduction of modern practices, as the traditional system of dry land
cultivation had to be set aside.
A clearer illustration of open-mindedness to innovations is demonstrated by
the employment under normal conditions of a new practice on a small scale. In
some instances these practices have been recommended by other persons, in
other instances the practices have been formulated by the individual farmer.
The most important examples of innovations for the present argument are
commonly overlooked. These are of crops and practices which have been widely
introduced by the initiative of individual farmers4 Indeed it seems probable that
a significant, if modest, part of useful farm practice which spread amongst small
farmers, was also introduced by small farmers.
Under their conditions of limited resources the farmers knew more profitable
forms of investment in familiar practices than they had resources to invest. In
these circumstances it was understandable that they rejected unfamiliar practices
almost entirely. No specific case of discontinuing probable returns (that is,
reducing estimated returns by an uncertainty allowance) was encountered
amongst the farmers studied, but their knowledge of the improved practices was
so slight in some instances they did not even know how the practices should
be employed and did not have the requisite skills for their introduction that in
effect they employed this safe-guard, making generous allowances for their great
The supply of resources was so limited that even all the familiar lines of
investment could not be used to the extent the farmers thought desirable. They
had to choose between various possible uses, taking into account the likely
profitability and security of the investment and their own and their families'
preference on non-economic grounds for various practices.
Some of the principal reasons given for rejecting some familiar practices while
adopting others were:
(i) lack of sufficient resources of the kinds needed to invest in all the
familiar practices (the resources included skills and organizational
ability as well as adequate labour and capital, and suitable land);
(ii) those practices adopted were believed to offer more profitable uses for
the available resources;
(iii) although the average level of profitability might have been high the risk
of loss at any particular time was unacceptably high;
(iv) the adoption of certain practices would have involved discontinuing
others, but the farmer was satisfied with the prevailing practices and
saw no reason why they should be replaced;
(v) refusal by the farmer to meet the discouragement of members of his
family and other persons if they did not approve a practice he
(vi) lack of incentive due to the farmer's old age or illness.
The farmers' reaction to the use of improved practices can only be
understood when considered as part of their entrepreneurial behaviour in the
context of the conditions of risk and uncertainty prevailing in their
environment. They responded to these conditions not only by employing
familiar practices and rejecting unfamiliar practices except under special
circumstances, but also by: refusing to borrow against the security of land;
maintaining reserves; producing many products; and making some payments in
kind rather than cash.
Their refusal to finance investment in unfamiliar practices (and their limited
investment in improved practices) allowed the farmers to avoid borrowing
substantially, and to maintain reserves of cash, land and unused credit from
official and unofficial sources. Relatives, friends, and persons to whom the
farmer had lent funds in the past, represented the unofficial sources of unused
credit. The farmer's assets in the form of livestock also constituted a reserve
which was reasonably safe as well as liquid.
Beside providing this reserve the livestock enterprises served to diversify the
farming systems. This diversification (and liquidity) was bought at the cost of
income, for the productivities of resources employed in the livestock enterprises
were appreciably lower than those of resources in crop enterprises in the same
farms. The large number of crops grown not only diversified the systems5, but
also served other purposes. The period during which crops are reaped is generally
longer for many than for a few crops, thus reducing the need for seasonal credit.
The inclusion of tree crops provides for the farmer's old age: when his declining
strength prevents him from working hard he is able to reap from the tree crops
which, unlike the short term and semi-permanent crops, require little attention
once they are established.
The farmers conserved their funds in favour of expending other resources,
particularly their family labour: labour tenancies, share tenancies (land and
livestock), and payment for labour by the return of labour with food, were all
arrangements adopted to reduce the need for making cash payments.
The funds of both tenants and owners were safe-guarded by some of these
arrangements: thus the owner of land which was share-cropped was spared
expenditure on hiring labour for cultivation, and the tenant avoided payment of
a cash rental.
In short the small farmers so managed their financial opportunities and
pattern of farm expenditure that they reduced both the need to draw on their
own cash reserves and to borrow from sources which did not find them
attractive clients. They adjusted their whole economic behaviour to conserve the
expenditure of funds.
The possibility of farm development
An appraisal of Jamaican small farming led to the view that it generally
represented a rational if not optimal response in the circumstances in which it
was conducted. Given the family needs and their limited resources, a strategy
which concentrated on ensuring modest but safe returns ('staying in the game')
in the face of great uncertainty constituted a sound policy.
However, the farm people did not regard the returns as adequate. There was a
strong 'felt need' for a level of income which could only have been obtained
from a more lucrative farming, which would have to be very different from the
It would seem that there was present some of the elements necessary for the
development of small farming in Jamaica: the demand for higher income, a
qualified willingness to introduce new practices, and a large number of improved
practices available for adoption. Could not these be mobilised to bring about a
transformation of farming from a low-return, multi-enterprise system based on
customary knowledge, to a more profitable system made up of only a few
enterprise, which employed modern scientific practices? The magnitude of the
change involved becomes apparent from the terms of the question. Possible
approaches to the development of small farmers will be discussed after looking
at the second case.
The Aranjuez Case
Vegetable production in Aranjuez became well established only in the late
1940's. Originally, Aranjuez had been a small sugar estate, but following the
depression in the 1890's the estate was given out in small-holding tenancies to
labourers who had completed their contractual obligations as indentured
labourers. They grew sugar cane and supplied it under contract to sugar
Sugar cane remained the principal crop until the 1930's when many of the
cane farmers withdrew from production, following the fall in cane prices which
accompanied the world depression. Some wet season rice was grown for family
In 1937 the infra-structure of Aranjuez was greatly improved. Access roads
were put down in the main agricultural areas, a dam was constructed and
irrigation and drainage channels dug. The sustained production of vegetables did
not commence until the late 1940's. Since that period production has increased
very rapidly. Between 1950 and 1966 the production of vegetables from 450
acres at Aranjuez grew from less than one million pounds (lbs.) to over six
million pounds, at an average compound rate of growth of 14%.
The two components of this high rate of increase were an increase in land-use
intensity of 3.3 times6 and a doubling of yields per crop acre. The increased
production came about as a result of a wide range of technical improvements.
These are reflected in the resource combinations for Arnajuez, which may be
compared with the resource combinations in Jamaican small farms:
(per crop acre) (per crop acre)
Labour 1,650 hrs. 600 hrs.
Expenditure on materials 69
Expenditure on tractor costs 14
Thus not only is 2-3 times as much labour employed at Aranjuez as in Jamaican
small farms, but the expenditure on materials and tractor costs is also at a very
much higher rate.
The innovations: their introduction and spread
The most significant innovations have been the use of: tractor mounted
rotovators for land preparation, fertilizers, new crop varieties, and chemical
Sources of information
The gardeners themselves have given the following order of priority in ranking
their main sources of information.
(i) MacDonald's Almanac7, (v) commercial salesmen,
(ii) radio, (vi) Agricultural societies,
(iii) other gardeners, (vii) University staff.
It will be noted that agricultural extension officers are not even mentioned.
Although there were several sources of agricultural knowledge used by the
gardeners, two of these salesmen of agricultural requirements and University
staff were responsible for first introducing to the gardeners information on the
most important innovations which have been employed in Aranjuez.
Many of the important innovations have been sought and introduced by the
gardeners with outstanding initiative. Few innovations have been sought and
introduced by group or community action.
The spread of innovations
Once a new technique has been adopted by any gardener in Aranjuez its use
spreads widely and rapidly. Within a few years innovations have been adopted by
This record would be notable if there was general co-operation between the
gardeners, but in the face of the intense competition which exists, the rate at
which innovations spread is even more remarkable. How does this occur? The
process depends on the competitiveness of the community. The gardeners live in
residential areas with persons, working outside agriculture, who generally earn
substantially higher incomes. Since prestige tends to be associated with material
possessions, the gardeners are constantly under pressure to earn higher incomes.
Improved technology and hard work are the means at hand to acquire higher
prestige. There is great incentive to employ new and profitable techniques,
partly for the hope of increased income, but also for the admiration of other
gardeners which is displayed towards a progressive gardener. This climate has
produced not only 'leaders in innovation', who achieve high crop yields, have
well kept gardens, and are innovators, but also a general spirit of professionalism
amongst the gardeners which takes pride the use of new methods. The
competitiveness is sufficiently acute to lead some gardeners to hide the cause of
success from their fellows and even to try to mislead them8 (One device used to
mislead fellow gardeners is to leave near the gardens apparently by negligence
- empty crop chemical tins which have had the correct labels replaced by other
labels. Gardeners who find the tins will initially draw the wrong conclusion
about chemicals used.) But the closeness and openness of the gardens militates
against such measures being more than temporarily successful: information
cannot be hidden from persistent observation and investigation.
The possibilities for sustained development
In view of the remarkable past growth of production in Aranjuez is it feasible
for production and income to be increased substantially in the future? It has
been estimated that a family cultivating an average sized holding of 1 acres
would have earned in 1966 about $1,900 (T.T.) (c. 396) or $2,300 (T.T.) (c.
'479), if all the labour was provided by the gardener's family.
A careful review of the possibilities of improvement available to the
individual gardener suggested that yields of important crops could be increased
by at least 20%. Variable cost per acre of crop could be reduced. Most of the
reduction would derive from mechanising labour-intensive methods, but there is
also scope for saving by the restriction of excessive use of expensive chemicals
for crop protection9 Gross margins the difference between gross revenue and
variable costs of two main crops could be increased by about 63% for
tomatoes and 132% for cabbage, per acre of crop.
There are other improvements which would require co-ordinated or
co-operative action by the gardeners for their implementation. These
improvements relate to the infrastructure and the process of marketing the
produce of of Aranjuez.
The conditions of the roads and of the water control system have been
deteriorating: the resulting loss of income to the gardeners is real and
appreciable. The worsening of the internal roads causes, as a direct result, an
increase in the price of transportation, which in turn restricts the area under
cultivation and reduces the choice of crop. Inadequate water control has tended
both to intensify flooding during the wet season and to reduce the water
available for crops during the dry season. In these ways the operational costs and
the product of land in Aranjuez has been adversely affected. When the water
supply is too low, labour has to be spent not only in lifting the water to the
crops but also in carrying the water to the fields by blocking and un-blocking the
appropriate canals, and by patrolling the supply to ensure that other gardeners
do not divert water at the expense of the individuals. A new central system of
irrigation is required.
If investment in the infra-structure was directed to improving the roads and
the system of water control, there could be significant savings in the cost of
several production operations and the uncertainties in production would be
reduced: the area under cultivation would almost certainly be increased also.
The practice of the individual gardener transporting his produce to the main
market and selling it personally to a retailer clearly also represents a high and
unnecessary cost to the community of gardeners, which does not require
elaboration. There is, therefore, considerable scope for returns to the gardeners
to be improved; but co-operative action is required by the gardeners.
The gardeners have been outstanding for their individualistic and even
antagonistic competitive behaviour. The only significant cases of large scale
co-operation have been provided by concerted protest and opposition. Thus the
gardeners have sent innumerable delegations to Government bodies protesting
about conditions which adversely affect their welfare. But more positive
manifestations of united action have been conspicuously absent.
A willingness to co-operate has to extend not only to other gardeners, but
also to external agencies, such as the Central Marketing Agency, if common
services are to be provided economically for the gardeners. Experience in this
respect has been discouraging.
The improvement of the infra-structure would also require a common
willingness and even demand amongst the gardeners for the payment of much
higher rental charges for their gardens. The present level of rents between
$6.00 and $10.00* (about 1-2) per acre is not sufficient to support even
routine maintenance. Despite the profitability of their vegetable production the
gardeners are not prepared to pay to the Estate Company, which owns the land,
higher rentals than were imposed in 1937, when the present infra-structure was
established. In contrast gardeners pay each other between $70.00 (15) and
$200.00 (c. 42) for the use of an acre of land for only a few months to grow a
single crop, while tenancy rights have been sold for between $900.00 (c. 190)
and $2,000 (c. 417) per acre in a recent year.
The gardeners are paying an extremely low rental to the Estate Company for
land with a deteriorating infra-structure, which if allowed to decline further will
not only reduce the returns from gardening, but will lead to the collapse of the
whole system and the transference of land to residential use. Indeed unless the
gardeners are successful in ensuring that the infra-structure is improved, at the
cost of paying higher rents (estimated to be of the order of $80.00 (c. 17) per
acre), the collapse of market gardening at Aranjuez can confidently be predicted.
It is possible to characterise the contrasting approaches of the Jamaican and
Aranjuez small farmers by saying that while the Jamaican small farmer was
unprepared as an individual to risk widespread innovation in farm practices, the
Aranjuez gardener adopts new technology to ensure that he will not be left
behind in farming practice and in material welfare. Both groups of farmers are
pervaded by a competitiveness which attempts to ensure that their fellows do
not get ahead of them. But whereas in the Jamaican case the effect was generally
for individual innovation to be constrained, in the Aranjuez case the individual
responds by striving for material advancement through innovation.
This difference in response is not simply explained by the relative efficacy of
the practices recommended to Jamaican small farmers as against those employed
by the Aranjuez gardeners. While it is true that the technology employed in
Aranjuez has been generally remunerative, profitable practices were also
available to the Jamaican small farmer. Possibly the essential difference is that
whereas the aggressive entrepreneurs of Aranjuez have learnt from experience
that innovation is commonly profitable, the experience of the Jamaican small
farmers has not proved the attractiveness of new technology, thus reinforcing
the discouragement to innovation from their communities.
How can the extremely common situation described in the Jamaican case be
tackled? This is, of course, too big a question to be discussed adequately at the
end of a short paper, but the cases considered suggest certain strategies which
will be indicated, after reference to two other common approaches. The
'rational' approach to farm development persuasion that a change would be to
the objective benefit of a farmer is an important ingredient in many
programmes of farm improvement. Another approach, improvement by
imposition, has been much more widespread than is commonly recognized. If
* $ Trinidad & Tobago
'extension by the sabre' has been confined to totalitarian regimes, other forms of
imposition, through law, regulation and even administrative decision, have been
practised under varied political systems, albeit for reasons other than the
primary benefit to the individual farmer. (The requirements of public health, for
instance, has a marked effect on the practice of livestock production in the
The case studies emphasise the influence of community cultural practice on
the individual. The experience at Aranjuez demonstrates strong progressive
influence. The effect displayed in Jamaican small farming has most frequently
been inhibiting, but instances have been noted of community influence leading
to widespread adoption of an innovation. Thus, in addition to the rational
approach and to imposition, the pressure to conformity in community farming
holds promise as a means of spreading improved practices. Widespread
introduction of farm practices, so that a popular pattern is created, may
sometimes be more a question of using techniques of persuasion than appealing
'rationally' to objective benefits. There is certainly no reason to believe that
innovations in farming are made only as a result of purely economic assessments.
A pessimistic view of the problems of transforming a highly complicated but
relatively safe farming system, into one which has fewer but very demanding
enterprises might lead to the view that a radically different approach is
necessary. The transformation of the farming system may seem to be beyond the
acceptance and capacity of the small farmer. Even the demands on the research
and extension staff to provide profitable small scale farming systems for the
various ecological areas and on the provision of improved infra-structure and
agricultural services, which have to be met to provide the conditions for general
small farm development, are formidable. The problems may be reduced to a
more manageable compass by producing new farmers, through training carefully
selected farmers or trainees, for introduction to adequate ready-made farms.
A quite different kind of approach or strategy to farm development derives
from a more macro-view of agricultural development, which recognizes the
influence of the economic environment on the farm business. The implication
for farm development is that manipulation of the environment through the
battery of measures available to a government can exert a profound if indirect
effect on farm practice. The experience of Aranjuez certainly confirms the
possibility of rapid growth being stimulated by a favourable environment. It has
to be recognized that the indirect measures available to a government cannot be
applied with the precision available to the more direct means of approach,
through work with individual farmers. But reference to the formidable problems
of organising an effective system of agricultural extension capable of reaching
large numbers of small farmers, and the disappointing experience in so many
countries of the 'classical' extension approach, suggest the need for other
approaches to be seriously explored. It may be that attempts to produce a
favourable environment will commonly need to be seen as complementary to the
extension or field agent approach.
Four main conclusions emerge from a study of the two cases.
Outside agencies may not be effective in bringing about the development of
small farms despite considerable effort and the investment of a substantial
volume of resources, as in the Jamaican case.
But small scale producers may respond in a spectacular way to a favourable
environment, as have the market gardeners of Aranjuez, even without much
direct official assistance.
Rapid growth in production may be checked when the avenues open to
individual effort are used up, unless co-operative action allows common needs
for further growth to be met.
Finally, several strategies are seen as possible approaches to farm
development. Amongst direct strategies are included: that 'rational', the
imposed, community persuasion, and the creation of new farmers and new
farms. There is also the indirect strategy, whereby an attempt is made to arrange
an economic environment favourable to farm development.
The author is indebted to A.A. MacMillan for providing access to a
manuscript in tie process of preparation and for sharing his ideas on Aranjuez at
a formative stage in the preparation of this paper and to Miss O.M. Strachan who
made useful comments on an advanced draft of this paper.
1. Edwards, D.T., 1961. An economic study of small farming in Jamaica. Inst. of Soc. and
Econ. Res. UCWI, Jamaica.
2. Edwards, D.T. Agricultural development in Jamaica, 1943-1961. (Paper read at the
Third West Indian Agricultural Economics Conference, April 1968).
3. International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, 1952. The Economic
Development of Jamaica. The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore.
4. MacMillan, A.A., 1967. Aranjuez, Agricultural Development in a suburban setting.
Proceedings of the Second West Indian Agricultural Economic Conference, August
1967 (UWI, St. Augustine): 216-227.
5. MacMillan, A.A., 1968. The development of market gardening in Aranjuez, Trinidad.
Ph.D. thesis, UWI, St. Augustine.
6. MacMillan, A.A. and Edwards, D.T. Aranjuez: Change in a market gardening
community in Trinidad a case study, 2d, (prepared for the International Seminar on
Change in Agriculture, held at Reading University in September 1968).
7. Pickering, R.H., 1968. A critical examination of wholesale marketing, as conducted by
the market gardeners of Aranjuez, Trinidad, DTA Project Report, UWI, St. Augustine.
8. Reader, R.A., 1968. The scope for mechanisation of vegetable production in Aranjuez,
Trinidad. DTA Project Report, UWI, St. Augustine.
9. Watson, J.D., 1968. The Double Helix. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
1. This paper has, of necessity, drawn heavily on the work by Edwards and MacMillan.
The research leading to the doctoral thesis by MacMillan was supervised by the author of
this paper. (Edwards, 1961; MacMillan, 1967 and 1968).
2. 1 (Jam.) $4.80 (Trinidad & Tobago).
1. (Jam.) 1 (Sterl.)
$ 1.00 (Trinidad & Tobago) = $ 0.50 (U.S.)
3. This concern with both the immediate and distant future sometimes resulted in the
paradoxical situation where a farmer who refused to plant a crop of bananas alone, because
he could not wait a year for it to bear, was prepared to plant trees which would not start
bearing for several years. The explanation is that the establishment of trees promised highly
valued security for the farmer's old age; the trees would produce useful crops with very little
labour, while the banana crop offered neither income in the immediate future nor security
for his old age. Similarly, land was bought even when its purchase reduced the possibilities
of investment in cultivation, because the possession of land ensured that the farmer would
be provided for in his old age.
4. A striking illustration is provided by peanuts which have become an important element
in the farming system of South St. Elizabeth in Jamaica.
5. Diversification of crops in the systems commonly extended to mixed cropping. There is
some reason to believe that under conditions of capital rationing and a generally poor level
of techniques, this practice results in a more productive use of resources than growing the
6. Land-use intensity is measured by the acreage of crops grown per year, per 1 acre of
7. MacDonald's Almanac is an annual publication produced in the United States of
America which advises on a wide range of problems, based on the phases of the moon. It is
widely used throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean.
8 A recent account of scientific research leading to the discovery of DNA is useful as a
reminder that extreme competitiveness is not the monopoly of poor men fighting for a
living (Watson, 1968).
9. It is interesting that the gardeners have no real understanding of the science of, or close
commerical sense of the limits to the use of the chemical substances which are employed so
CANADA SUGAR AND THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
Following upon the Canada-Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference held
in Ottawa in July, 1966, Canada instituted a programme providing for direct
annual payments to each of the sugar producing Commonwealth Caribbean
Governments, of an amount equal to the duty collected on Canadian imports of
West Indies sugar (29c per 100 pounds), up to a maximum of 275,000 metric
Early in April, 1970, the Canadian government notified the Commonwealth
Caribbean governments that it proposed to terminate this arrangement and to set
up instead, a fund of five million dollars Canadian for the development of
agriculture in all those Caribbean territories that are recipients of Canadian
From one perspective the Canadian action could be regarded as "progressive"
if not generous. Intellectual opinion in the Commonwealth Caribbean, radical
and otherwise, has long held that the sugar industry given its historical role
and association with slavery, the plantation economy, and colonialism should
be phased out as quickly as possible if not abandoned altogether. Furthermore,
this process could be hastened by not renewing governmental and other
assistance to the industry.
On the positive side, also, the substitute agricultural development fund which
would be channelled through the Caribbean Regional Development Bank would
provide additional resources for the development of agricultural products and
services especially in the smaller Windward and Leeward Islands.
The Canadian action, however, gave rise to strong indignation, indeed even
fury, among political leaders attending the Sixth Conference of Heads of
Government of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries being held in Jamaica
April 13-18, 1970.
This writer, who visited Jamaica during the conference and talked with a
number of the Prime Ministers of long-standing acquaintance, felt constrained in
giving evidence on Caribbean affairs before the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs on 21st April, 1970 in Ottawa to say that, "at the moment there
is stronger resentment and hostility to Canada as a power than against any other
that I know of in recent years". Much of the resentment stemmed from the fact
that the Canadian government had acted without full consultation with the
Caribbean heads of governments. A further likely consideration was the fact that
whereas the refund of import duties was being paid directly to the governments
of sugar producing territories, the agricultural development fund would be under
regional rather than national control.
The conference passed a resolution deprecating Canada's unilateral
termination of the 1966 Ottawa agreement, stressed that they did not consider
the agricultural development fund as a substitute for rebates accruing to the
benefit of the sugar industry and hinted at retaliatory action by directing the
conference secretariat "to conduct as a matter of urgency an examination of the
trade and other relations between the Commonwealth Caribbean countries and
Canada so that urgent action may be taken by Commonwealth Caribbean
governments acting in concert to redress any imbalance which may exist
Coincidentally, the first of a series of studies of foreign investment and
ownership in the Caribbean Commonwealth countries being undertaken by the
Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies, had
just been submitted, under the strictest confidentiality, to Heads of
Governments at the conference.
Marketing of West Indian Sugar
All Caribbean Commonwealth sugar not consumed locally is sold in one or all
of three countries, namely, The United Kingdom, the United States of America,
and Canada. In each country, however, sugar is sold under a different pricing
The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement
The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement (hereafter the CSA) was signed on 21st
December, 1951. It reflected the concern of the U.K. and Commonwealth sugar
producing countries, most of which were still British colonies, to establish a
long-term agreement for supplying sugar to the U.K.; for developing the
production of sugar, (effectively owned or controlled by British investment
interests); and for the orderly marketing of sugar. The exporting territories
involved were, Australia, British Honduras, East Africa, Fiji, India, Mauritius,
Southern Rhodesia (excluded from the Agreement after UDI, November, 1965)
Swaziland and West Indies and Guyana. The CSA established first an overall
quota (currently 2.7 million tons of raw sugar for the Commonwealth
producers) which set a limit to the total quantity which each of the exporting
territories could export in any one year for sale or shipment to the preferential
and negotiated price markets. Secondly, the CSA also established negotiated
price quotas which determined the amount that the U.K. would take from each
territory annually at negotiated prices. The present West Indies negotiated price
quota is 725,000 long tons,
The negotiated prices are fixed for successive periods of three years, "having
regard to the agreed principles of uniformity and of reasonable remuneration to
efficient producers" Additionally, "in recognition of the dependence of the
economies of the less-developed exporting territories in the Commonwealth
Sugar Agreement upon the export of sugar and the effect on them of the
depressed world prices, the negotiated prices for those territories shall also
include provision for a special payment related inversely to the world price in a
manner to be agreed by the parties hereto and taking account of the former
colonial certificated preference" (Article 17).
The Caribbean countries as developing countries are eligible currently to
a) a negotiated price* of 43.10 shillings per ton (Canadian $105.00 f.o.b.
b) a special payment including (i) a fixed element of 1.10 shillings per ton
(Canadian $3.63) including the colonial certificated preference and (ii) a
variable element related inversely to the world price by means of a scale.
This variable element in the special payment ranges from 2.10 shillings
(Canadian $6.00) if the world price is less than 3 per ton, (Canadian
$7.00) to nil if it rises to 39 (Canadian $94.00) and over per ton.
Purchase and marketing of Commonwealth raw sugar in the United Kingdom
are undertaken by the U.K. Sugar Board.
Sales to the U.S.A.
The rupture of diplomatic relations between Castro's Cuba and the United
States opened up a new and fairly remunerative market for West Indian sugar.
Under the U.S. Sugar Act of 1948 (amended in December, 1965 and to be
effective until 1971) the Department of Agriculture estimates both the total
domestic demand for sugar and the shortfalls in supply from domestic producing
areas which include the mainland U.S.A., Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands. The shortfall, if any, forms the basis of the U.S. import quota which in
turn is pro-rated among various foreign countries including the West Indies. In
the proration, Cuba is allocated 50% of the available quantity, but there is the
provision that during the current suspension of diplomatic relations the Cuban
quota will be withheld and pro-rated among other foreign countries. At the
present U.S. consumption level of roughly 9.7 million short tons, the West Indies
quota is 3.02% of the available balance.
The West Indies and Guyana share of the U.S. market, taking account of basic
quota as well as proration of quota deficits, have averaged, in recent years, the
equivalent of 142,000 long tons. Actual quotas for 1968 and 1969 were 180,000
and 142,000 long tons respectively.
* A new CSA price structure for the years 1972-74 was agreed upon in December 1971.
Commonwealth Caribbean producers secured a substantial increase in the UK negotiated
(NPQ) price and will receive 61 or J$122 per ton, which includes a special payment in
recognition of the fact that West Indian producers operate under special conditions of
high cost production.
The 1970 U.S. price is equivalent to 64 per long ton f.o.b. (Canadian
$155.00) and is therefore higher than the CSA negotiated price. Unlike the U.K.
Sugar Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not purchase sugar.
Marketing is handled by London and New York brokers in conjunction with
West Indian sugar interests.
Sales to Canada
Canada, while not a signatory to the CSA, became a party to the agreement
by virtue of Article 3. "It is agreed that the parties to this Agreement will give
priority to sales of Commonwealth sugar to Canada and subject to market
considerations, will make sugar available for sale to Canadian refiners through
normal commercial channels in such quantities and from such sources as they
Canada then did not agree to pay the Negotiated Price and has bought only
free market sugar. Incidentally, only about 15% of the world's sugar production
is sold at the world or free market price so that sugar is as much a political
commodity as it is an economic commodity.
The accepted indicators of the world price of sugar are the London Daily
Price and the New York Coffee and Sugar No. 8 contract price.
The Canadian government, however, grants preference of $1.00 Canadian per
100 pounds on imports of Commonwealth sugar and extends this preference to
South Africa as well in spite of the fact that the Canadian government took a
strong initiative in effecting the expulsion of South Africa from the
Commonwealth. By agreement between the Commonwealth suppliers and the
Canadian refiners, 25c per hundred of the preference is retained by the refiners
while 75c per hundred pound accrues to the Commonwealth suppliers.
As far as pricing goes, therefore, if the London Daily Price is 40 pounds per
long ton as it has been recently, then the approximate realization in Canada,
allowing for the preference, would be 45.6 shillings c.i.f. (Canadian $110.00)
or 42.10 shillings (Canadian $103.00) per ton f.o.b. and stowed which is the
basis on which the U.S. quota and negotiated price quota sales are made.
The Commonwealth Caribbean Case Against Canada
Commonwealth Caribbean communities have been critical for some time of
Canadian interests for purchasing West Indian raw sugar at prices which they
consider do not cover cost of production. Standardized and reliable comparative
cost of production figures for raw sugar are difficult to come by. The table
below gives data in respect of Jamaica only. These are sugar producers' figures.
1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
U.K. 46.11.6. 47.10.0. 47.10.0. 47.10.0. 47.10.0
U.S.A. 45.17.4. 45. 9.10. 49. 1.8. 59. 2.3. 6312.7
Canada 25. 5.5. 25. 2. 5. 22.16. 1. 26. 4.8. 3&12.9
Production 42.12.9. 45.13. 5. 47. 0. 11. 49.18.6. 57.10.0
It will be observed from the above that Canada pays substantially less for raw
sugar than the U.K. and U.S.A. Sales to Canada over the past five years have
been as follows: 1965 283,517 long tons; 1966 243,111 tons; 1967 -
170,143 tons; 1968 166,255 tons; 1969 74,921 tons.
Commonwealth Caribbean exporters further complain that during World War
II Canadians were able to through the U.K. Ministry of Food to purchase
Caribbean sugar at prices substantially lower than they would have had to pay,
had Canada been obliged to purchase dollar sugar from Cuba or Latin America.
The possibility of Canada "making amends" loomed large in 1963 and 1964
when the world (free market) price for sugar surged upwards. The U.K.
negotiated price quota then appeared as an attractive alternative, and Canadian
Ministers reported in Parliament that they were contemplating action to alleviate
the sugar crisis. Commonwealth sugar exporters then offered to sell sugar to
Canadian interests at lower prices in return for a longer term guarantee of
purchases at more reasonable (to Canada) and more remunerative prices (to the
West Indies). Canada, however, stalled negotiations until the world price fell and
then called off the negotiations altogether. In 1966, as indicated earlier, Canada
however agreed to refund import duties collected on Commonwealth sugar
amounting to 29c per hundred pounds.
The Canadian Position
Canadian sugar refiners have been strongly opposed to any bilateral
agreement between the Commonwealth Caribbean countries and Canada. The
more important of the reasons adduced may be summarized as follows:
(a) Resulting higher prices for West Indian sugar and the need to distribute
the burden equitably among refiners would restrain Canadian
(b) Import quotas would have to be established to enforce the agreement.
This would open up the door for ultimate governmental regulation of
the Canadian industry.
(c) There would be no incentive for Commonwealth Caribbean suppliers to
compete with other raw sugar sellers.
(d) Canadian refined sugar prices would have to be increased to reflect
higher cost of raws and with it the possibility of reduced domestic sugar
sales as well as sales of sweetened goods made in Canada which
(purportedly) have to complete with imports.
(e) Any special agreement with raw suppliers would be a drastic departure
from traditional trade policy.
The expressed fear of governmental regulation of sugar refining activities in
Canada should not, it seems to me, be taken seriously. West Indian sugar is being
sold at remunerative prices in the U.S.A. under a quota system but the U.S.
government is not involved in the purchasing and marketing of sugar.
Equally suspect must be the suggestion that Canadian refiners are concerned
to promote domestic competition. As is well known, the natural inclination of
producers, especially oligopolistic ones, is to minimize competition and
maximize overall stability.
More important, it seems to me, however, is the concern to preserve
traditional trading patterns and arrangements. The buying of raw sugar at the
world market price obviously have been beneficial to Canadian consumers,
refiners, and manufacturers. Consumers, according to the refiners, are very
sensitive to increases in the price of refined sugar. So correspondingly are the
manufacturers of soft drinks, biscuits, confectionery and jams, dairy and food
products, cereals, pharmaceutical products and baked goods who market
goods worth over 3 billion dollars annually in the production of which sugar is a
It is well to point out also, for the benefit of those who prefer to view the
world market price as the product of market forces, that the free market price of
sugar cannot be regarded as an economic price in any meaningful sense. Only
twelve to fifteen percent of the world's production of sugar is sold on the
so-called free market. This market is free only in the sense that having disposed
of the bulk of their production under protective arrangements (bilateral or
otherwise) many exporting countries are prepared then to dump unearmarked
surpluses at whatever price they can get. Periodically, of course, crop failures
and shortfalls in production reduce surpluses available for the world (free)
market and the so-called free market price may rise quite dramatically for a
Finally, Canadian refiners make the point that far from diverting purchases
from the West Indies to South Africa and other countries, they are unable to
obtain raw sugar in the amount needed from the West Indies because of
declining production.* West Indian producers, on the other hand, can see little
justification for allowing Canadian refiners to take up their quota under the CSA
if all West Indian sugar can be disposed of at higher prices in the U.K. and the
It does seem ironical that the Caribbean Commonwealth exporters should be
unable, because of shortfalls in production, to take advantage of the trend
towards rising world prices which has set in since the conclusion of the
International Sugar Agreement in late 1968. Canada, it should be noted, actively
supported the negotiation of a new International Agreement as the most
effective means of stablizing prices at relatively higher levels.
In May, 1970, the Chairman of the West India Committee in England warned
that, "The immediate danger to the future of the sugar industry in the Caribbean
is not the common market but its own inability to expand production
economically to meet outlets which are available to it now and in the future."
* Shortfalls in production will preclude sale of any sugar to Canada by Commonwealth
Caribbean producers during 1972.
We end up, however, with the "which comes first argument". Do you expand
production and rationalize the structure and operations of the industry so as to
increase profitability at existing prices, or do you need the guarantee of
reasonable remunerative prices and long term markets as a prerequisite for
In the meanwhile sugar producers in the Caribbean Commonwealth countries
have been pressuring governments to allow them to accelerate the pace and
scope of mechanization and rationalization of the industry which they see as the
only way to ensure survival even under existing circumstances. Political leaders,
especially in Jamaica, have found themselves in a "bind" They are faced with
serious unemployment, a growing incidence of criminal violence and mounting
radical intellectual criticism spearheaded by young academics who are calling for
dismantling of the plantation economy. They are haunted also by the spectre of
the near success of the insurrection in Trinidad some months ago. They are
therefore understandably fearful of compounding social and economic problems
by allowing the importation and use of mechanical harvesters which might lead
to significant displacement of labour. For one thing, emigration no longer
provides a safety valve, certainly for the unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
Should the ailing West Indian Sugar Industry be given a new lease on life?
The Great Debate in Jamaica
In December, 1967, New World' published a pamplet written by Mr.
Havelock Brewster, lecturer in Economics at the University of the West Indies
(UWI) entitled, "The Sugar Industry Our Life or Death" Brewster suggested
that there were two strategies for dealing with the sugar industry. Firstly,
"The strongest alternative, I think is that the sugar industry
should be abandoned at once. We should be thankful if others do it
for us. The logic of this approach is to create such shock conditions
(the only possible effective stimulus to West Indian governments in
this view) that of necessity we would find rather quickly, what the
alternatives are. In the course of finding these a new type of social
economic (and political) organization would, by the very nature of
the problem, become necessary. This approach has not gained
widespread acceptance, though some writers wish to give the
impression that it is the only viewpoint tolerated by modern
economists in the Caribbean"
Secondly, the less extreme strategy or alternative according to Brewster,
"says that a prima facie case exists for believing that we are not
getting as much as we possibly can from the present use and non-use
of our resources. Let us therefore plan this matter rationally by
ranging before us the set of resources available and confront it with
the constellation of feasible alternatives. Let us then select those
activities which both fully employ the resources and yield the
maximum national income Having done this would sugar
occupy some 20 to 12 percent of the total cultivable land in this
Furthermore, in regard to the second strategy, "Its implementation is a
process which must take time, whatever be the political system in operation. It is
not a matter of lightning transformation."
Specifically, in regard to Jamaica, the "Young Turks" have posed the
question, What is so sacrosant and preservable-at-all cost in an industry which
has 60,000 workers with their probably 240,000 dependents dangling
precariously at the end of 3 per week? (Canadian $7.26).
The issue then is not seen simply as a matter of private returns per acre of
land but rather of net returns to the country for all resources put into the sugar
industry compared with returns from alternative investments.
It is implied that from the point of view of social economy, the contribution
of the sugar industry to income, foreign exchange earnings, and employment
might be less than has been supposed. As the argument runs, quite apart from
the problems of definition and measurement of costs and productive efficiency
in the industry as it now exists, the indirect costs of maintaining the industry
may be significant enough to justify adopting a programme of agricultural
diversification. Agricultural diversification would involve employing unused
plantation lands (as well as recapturing land currently under sugar cultivation) to
enable development of vegetable production, meat and dairying, corn or maize,
housing, recreational facilities and so on. Furthermore, the diversification
programme, would, but not necessarily so, lead to the elimination of the existing
private estates or latifundias.
The most important of the indirect costs are financial and administrative. The
indirect financial costs include such things as the pre-empting of commercial
banking credit and loans by the estates, as preferred customers, at the expense of
small farmers and peasants. Additionally, structural factors, such as ownership
and/or financial control of sugar estates, induce a strong link between the U.K.
money markets and the Jamaican and West Indian money markets which
probably limits the ability of sugar dependent West Indian governments to
follow an independent monetary policy.
In regard to indirect administrative costs, it is alleged that because so much of
the diplomacy and foreign economic policy of the West Indian governments are
directed towards fighting for more sugar preferences, a high proportion of
government administrative costs may be attributed to the sugar industry.
The weakness of the foregoing economic critique (which I have had to
simplify) is that while the direct contributions of sugar in terms of employment,
wages and foreign exchange earnings are tangible, and fairly measureable, the
indirect costs or "externalities" if you will, are often impossible to quantify and
may at best be hypothetical. Furthermore, if agricultural diversification is to be
taken seriously as the alternative to sugar there is every indication that the
problems attendant on the expansion and marketing of other agricultural
products will continue to be as forbidding as they have been in the past.
On much stronger grounds it seems to me is the indictment of the sugar
industry on sociological grounds. Sugar is a crop which has been associated with
slavery and colonialism and it has put an enduring taint on manual labour in the
West Indies. That apart, cutting cane is brutally hard work which is loathed by
agricultural labourers throughout the West Indies but especially those of negroid
(African) extraction. It has not been unknown in the Eastern Caribbean islands
for cane cutters to leave their own community (say Island A) where workers are
needed to reap the crop, and travel to Island B to do precisely that, while
workers in Island B in a similar situation, reverse the flow and go to Island A to
cut cane. The explanation of this seeming paradox is that workers will shy away
from the visibly low status sugar work in their own community but will be
prepared to do the same work in another island where they are strangers and
UWI sociologist Orlando Patterson eloquently sums up the indictment in
"To sum up, I submit that the sociological case against the sugar
plantation is unanswerable. The sugar plantation destroys stable
family life and in so doing destroys the whole fabric of our social
order. It strangles community development. It induces the
perpetuation of rigid class and status hierarchies. It is
psychologically demoralising and as such is an obstacle to progress.
And last, but not least, it is morally repugnant"
The Political Realities of Sugar Economies
The governments of the Caribbean Commonwealth are committed to raising
the standards of living of their peoples as quickly as possible. The rising tide of
expectations will accept no less. They must operate, however, within the
constraints imposed by agriculture based economies, although bauxite in Guyana
and Jamaica and oil and asphalt in Trinidad have given these countries a firmer
economic base. Additionally, the Caribbean sea, white sands and scenic beauty,
have permitted a phenomenal expansion of tourism in the area, and it is clearly
an important source of revenue. Political leaders, bureaucrats and intellectuals
alike have expressed some apprehensions, however, about the further rapid
growth of tourism. It can have a number of undesirable social side effects
without necessarily bringing all the expected economic benefits.
In the post World War II era a number of the West Indian economies have
achieved respectable annual growth rates in GDP and this has been reflected in
rising per capital incomes. In 1969, for example, per capital income in Jamaica
reached Jamaican 369 dollars (Canadian $446). GDP grew by 9.4% while GNP
grew by 9.8%.
An individual does not, however, assess the efficacy or worthwhileness of his
country's political system by national income statistics. What he judges it by, is
its effects on him personally. Can he obtain employment and income and enjoy
a modicum comfort beyond mere subsistence?
The Caribbean Commonwealth countries continue to be plagued by high and
serious rate of unemployment, which is reflected in a growing incidence of
criminal violence, impatience among the youth with constitutional and political
gradualism, and an increasing antipathy to foreign ownership and exploitation of
basic resources. There is also a growing emotional identity with the revolt of
black people everywhere against the indignities to which they have been
Population pressures also have served to "dampen" the employment effects
of planned economic development including attempts at agricultural
diversification and industrialization. For example, the government of Trinidad
created no fewer than 68,200 new jobs between 1956 and 1969. Yet in June,
1969, there was 17,200 young people aged 15 to 19 unemployed and 13,100 in
the age group 20-24.
Equally alarming is the long-run implications of the glaring inequalities in
income in the Commonwealth Caribbean countries. Some years ago, a U.W.I.
sponsored research study concluded that Jamaica, for instance, was among the
countries which had the most inequitable distribution of income in the world.
Given this environmental context and the fact that there seems to be a
world-wide revolt against authority and traditional institutions and values, the
sugar industry in the Caribbean and more so it seems in Jamaica, has become the
source of considerable governmental anxiety on the one hand and the butt of
critical comment and dissent on the part of young intellectuals on the other.
The realities of sugar, therefore, are that with all its present drawbacks,
economic as well as social, it continues to give considerable employment to a
rural proletariat who by virtue of educational and skill attainment would be
otherwise unemployable. The radical (that is left of centre if not left wing)
critique says, "abandon sugar the oldest infant industry in the world and give the
sugar lands to the peasants who alone have the creative capacities to transform
this archaic colonial agricultural system"
It is true that peasant cane farmers from Jamaica to Guyana have
demonstrated that they can achieve satisfactory cane yields even on marginal
lands. It is true also that the birth of the modern West Indies may be traced to
the revolts of the peasants and working classes in the period 1935-38.
One suspects, however, that there is an element of glorification, ideologically
inspired of the peasants and perhaps an exaggerated assessment of their
possible role in transforming existing capitalistic enterprises. The catalytic role
being attributed to the peasants may stem in part also from disillusionment with
trade unionism (which is also more of a rural than an urban phenomenon in the
West Indies) as a vehicle for revolutionary politics. Many of the West Indian
political parties have grown out of or have been based on trade union mass
support and working class conservatism has undoubtedly been a serious
constraint on political radicalism in the Commonwealth Caribbean though less so
The sugar producers faced with relatively high costs of production which in
the context of the West Indies may still be consistent with fairly efficient
operation, see mechanization as the salvation of the industry and have been
exerting considerable pressure, (for example, closure of unprofitable estates), to
force governments to allow importation of harvesting and other mechanical
equipment. Successive Commissions of Inquiry in a number of the territories
have supported the principle of mechanisation and rationalisationn" The Prime
Minister of Jamaica stated that, "Government cannot yield to pressure to allow
business to mechanize at the rate they want. This would be compounding an
already bad unemployment situation" Government policy must be, "to retain
jobs for those who have already have jobs and the creation of more skills"
Sugar manufacturers and cane farmers have replied that it is not the duty of
the sugar industry to provide and give employment to workers displaced in the
interests of efficiency as the sugar industry is not a welfare organization.
Ironically, this position is not without merit in that the sugar industry is being
asked to prolong its historical slave plantation role in terms of employment at
the same time that it is being condemned as a hangover of a system which no
longer has any legal or moral basis.
What is at issue, therefore, is not mechanization, per se, for mechanization
has been going on steadily for scores of years. Rather it is the rate of
mechanization and what is to be achieved by it. For one thing, mechanization
does not necessarily reduce, and as a matter of fact, has not reduced, the costs of
production in the sugar industry.
A substantial amount of mechanization has taken place throughout the West
Indies since the end of the second World War and in spite of the reductions in
the labour force, costs of production have risen consistently. In Jamaica
declining direct labour costs have been offset by increases in other production
costs. Indeed it appears that one of the traditional expectations of trade unions,
namely, that mechanization may be tolerated to the extent that it can allow
remaining workers in the labour force to claim an extra increase in average
incomes and thus maintain labour's total share in the industry's income, has not
My suspicion is that given the size and topography of the West Indian sugar
producing countries, it is doubtful whether a drastic reduction of the labour
force by even 50% would achieve other than a modest effective reduction of
West Indian governments, nevertheless, have been yielding to the logic of
events. Labour shortages reflecting the unwillingness of many workers to remain
in manual employment in the industry has been a decisive factor in the past and
will continue to be so. In Jamaica, import of five experimental harvesters has
been licensed on the condition that they do not displace any of the currently
employed labour force. In Barbados importation of a mechanical harvester has
been sanctioned as part of a five year programme of mechanization. Barbados,
incidentally, will also have to import 1,400 labourers to meet shortages for
certain operations for the 1970 crop.
Antigua also will allow two mechanical harvesters capable of reaping 60 tons
per hour. The rationale behind these decisions is "not that the prospects for
sugar are rosy, but that the prospects for other crops are worse"
Additional measures taken by governments (as in Jamaica) to assist the sugar
industry include increases in the retail prices of refined (imported) sugar as well
as other lower grades of sugar which are consumed in the islands by the bulk of
the working classes. Fertilizer subsidies and investment allowances for new
capital outlays are also enjoyed by cane farmers and sugar producers.
Should Canada Pay Higher Prices for West Indian Sugar?
Given the discussion to this point, is it unreasonable to expect Canadian
refiners to pay a little more for raw sugar from the West Indies?
Obviously, refiners and manufacturers are not likely to forego readily the
advantage which they have derived from buying sugar at the cheapest price
possible. Canadian consumers and housewives in particular also have become
rather sensitive to spiralling prices and, no doubt all Canadians have become
familiar with inflation even if they do not understand what causes it and what
should be the appropriate remedy. Sugar as a basic commodity has however
offered a measure of relief to consumers in this situation. The Canadian Sugar
Institute asserts that prices have averaged less than 10 cents a pound retail since
the Boer War: Wars and their aftermath have had the greatest impact on sugar
prices. After World War I the Canadian price of sugar soared to 18 cents a
pound, the highest on record. During the Korean War the price rose to 12 cents a
pound then moderated. It rose again during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and spiralled
to 16 cents a pound during the Cuban Crisis of 1963.
As far as the Commonwealth Caribbean Governments are concerned, they are
engaged in a war of a different sort a war against poverty, disease and
ignorance. Its manifestations have not been as dramatic as those of armed
conflict but the potential for political violence is a real in the long run.
The plea is for more favourable terms of trade. The cry for more trade and
less aid has almost become a cliche, but alas this argument is not likely to strike
a responsive chord in the modern welfare state.
In "Beyond the Welfare State" (1958) Gunnar Myrdal pointed out that in
rich countries of the western democratic world the welfare state is protectionist
and nationalist. Moral ambivalence in international relations and international
trade would be one manifestation of this.
Former colonial powers deprived of empires and colonies have found it more
convenient, it seems, to concentrate upon raising and protecting the already high
living standards of their citizens. The challenge to European (and white) cultural
and economic domination, forced by the emergence of so many non-white
nations and countries since World War II could be expected to create attitudes in
the western world conducive to withdrawal and isolation. Indeed, in Britain the
question is now being asked Can Britain afford to remain in the
The major economic problem faced by the industrially advanced welfare
states has been inflation (and full employment) rather than unemployment.
Indeed preoccupation with inflation has led the Canadian Government to
tolerate a rate of unemployment which in September 1970 stood at 6.7% of the
labour force. The Government regards this as the price necessary to pay to break
the inflation psychology. On the other hand inflation has proven to be an
important social lubricant for minimizing industrial and social conflict. It is
easier to achieve accommodation of competing claims of interest groups when
increases in the payments to factors can be passed on to customers or
For their part the developing and poorer countries must worry not only
about chronic unemployment but also about import induced inflation. As
weaker trading partners they buy industrial equipment for more powerful
countries such as Canada which dictate the prices of industrial and manufactured
goods. In this way the industrially advanced states are in a sense exporting a
measure of inflation (and unemployment) to the poorer countries thereby
complicating their task of developing their economies, creating jobs, and raising
Less developed countries, however, have found it easier to appeal to richer
countries to provide aid, which satisfies both the latter's economic self-interest
and humanitarian instincts, than to obtain more favourable terms of trade.
Prospects for the Caribbean Common wealth
Unless the patterns and terms of trade can be reoriented, the developing
countries, including the Caribbean Commonwealth will be under domestic
pressures to seek redress by more drastic means. One such method is to reclaim
with or without respect for legal processes and compensation, basic resources
now owned or controlled by foreign and metropolitan interests. It is no point in
saying that Canadian capital can stay at home. We have entered into a new era of
mercantilism, represented by the emergence of the multinational corporation,
and emulation if nothing more will still spur overseas investment.
It is my view that continuing economic instability in the sugar industry is
likely to lead to a "polarization" of politics in the West Indian communities
which could have unfortunate consequences. On the one hand, Governments are
operating within internal and external constraints. The internal or domestic
constraints, some of which have been alluded to in this paper, derive primarily
from the economic and social structures of the West Indian countries. I suppose
some would also see the existing political systems as obstacles to economic and
social change. In regard to external factors, Caribbean Commonwealth Heads of
Government cannot be but sensitive to the fact that the major powers within
whose spheres of influence the Caribbean countries lie are not likely to be
enthusiastic about radical political experiments which appear to constitute a
challenge to their own political systems and economic interests.
On the other hand, exponents of radical change and revolutionaries are likely
to become even more alienated from'an existing social and political order which
does not seem able or capable of significantly altering the plantation economies
inherited from the colonial past. Admittedly the radical intellectual critics have
left themselves open to allegations of intellectual arrogance and contempt for
the masses they profess to want to help. One gains the impression that they may
be as much enamoured by the concept and appeal of rational economic planning
and its techniques as by genuine concern for human welfare. Certainly, the terms
peasants, toilers and peoples which are used so frequently in their debates,
articles and proposals, appear to be used as instrumental concepts.
Moreover, suggestions for change or reform are tied to the acceptance of total
systems which represent extreme departures from the existing scheme of things.
Not only does this make it difficult for middle-of-the-roaders and even "radical
pragmatists" to play a role, but it also allows embattled governments to retreat
behind the call for "law and order"
It may be well to remind therefore that the end of economic activity is to
improve human well-being, spiritual as well as material. Each generation of
citizens must have the right to decide the extent to which they will make
sacrifices for the sake of posterity. The possibility of effecting immediate and
modest improvements in living standards within the existing economic or
political framework cannot always be rejected because it is deemed to "patch
up" the existing system or "stave-off' the fateful day of revolutionary
Finally, a word about recent developments in the Canada Caribbean
Commonwealth sugar misunderstanding. Canada has agreed to defer cancellation
of the rebate of sugar import duties pending further discussion with the
governments concerned. It appears that the Canadian decision was prompted by
concern to tidy up the situation administratively rather than by sinister design.
The duty refund was being transferred, in effect, from one budgetary allocation
to another and was being increased in the process.
Hearings being conducted during April 1970 by the Standing (Canadian)
Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on Canada-Caribbean relations, served to
give wide publicity to the West Indian disenchantment with the Canadian action.
Apparently it also prompted the Canadian government to continue the import
duty rebate for another year at least.
In its report published in June 1970, the Standing Senate Committee also
concluded that "Canada should take full account of the dilemma of the sugar
producing countries and recognize the difficulties involved in diversification
efforts. Buying Caribbean sugar at prices below the cost of production obviously
does not engender good will".
Those who suggest that the West Indians should find their own long-run
solution to their agricultural and structural problems would do well to remember
that Canada, with all her advanced technology and managerial know-how has not
yet succeeded in making agriculture respond to economic or market forces. We
are currently disbursing millions of dollars to wheat farmers as an inducement to
cut-back production or let wheat lands lie fallow. We offer stenuous objections if
the Americans attempt to give away wheat surpluses as aid-in-kind to countries
to which we would like to sell wheat.
GEORGE E. EATON
1. New World represents a group or movement spearheaded by university teachers and
students in the Caribbean and overseas, who have been attempting to establish the
intellectual climate for radical (socialist?) political orientation in the West Indies. As the
spokesman for the post-1938 generation who have now come of age, they see their task as
one of articulating and defining the nature of their condition and the specific possibilities
for social and economic reconstruction. The New World group publishes a quarterly, New
World, Volume 5, Nos. 1 and 2, 1969 contains a symposium on "Sugar and Change in the
2. Orlando Patterson, "Social Aspects of the Sugar Industry", New World Quarterly,
Volume 5, Nos. 1 and 2, p. 49, 2969.
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH
A background paper prepared for the Human Resources Seminar held at the University of
the West Indies, August 5 to 12, 1970.
It is perhaps worthwhile at the outset to remind ourselves that there is as yet
no such entity as a Commonwealth Caribbean economy, in the sense in which
the term 'economy' is usually understood. The English speaking Caribbean
consists of a number of territories at various levels of underdevelopment which
have been, and for the most part still are, more integrated into the economic
systems of some metropolitan countries (United Kingdom, United States and
Canada) than with each other. Within recent years recognition of the basic
similarity of their problems, in the context of a world situation in which,
increasingly, attempts are being made to apply regional solutions to economic
problems, has led to halting steps towards more economic co-operation in the
Caribbean. It remains to be seen whether this process will be intensified so that
the economies will become integrated in a way which will make possible
the solution of problems which individual units may find intractable.
It is outside the scope of a brief paper of this sort to attempt to deal in any
detail with the economies of as many as sixteen territories which, despite the
basic similarity of their problems, differ in many particulars. The more modest
aim will be to present a kind of overview which concentrates on matters such as
the broad structural characteristics of the economies, the major forces which
affect their workings, the results of policies which have so far been pursued and
the challenges and possibilities of the future.
The question of size has been very much in the centre of recent discussions
relating to economic development in the Caribbean. This has been due to the
pioneering work of Demas' who has pointed to the difficulties likely to be faced
by small economies in today's world in attempting to carry out structural
transformation which he regards as a necessary concomitant of economic
development. In this context a small country is defined as one with a population
of five million or less. All the territories in the English speaking Caribbean are
very small by this definition. But there are considerable differences within the
group. They range all the way from Jamaica with a population of close to two
million to the Turks and Caicos Islands with less than ten thousand inhabitants.
The shortrun possibilities for 'going it alone' therefore vary considerably
between the territories. But it is a sobering experience to note that even an
integrated Commonwealth Caribbean economy would fail to reach the arbitrary
population level which Demas considers the minimum level for viability.
A related problem has to do with the high degree of openness which is
characteristic of most of the economies. In most of the territories imports
account for upwards of 30 per cent of the gross domestic product. Except in the
case of Jamaica and Guyana which export bauxite and alumina and Trinidad
which depends heavily on exports of petroleum products the typical
Commonwealth Caribbean country depends on exports of a narrow range of
agricultural products such as sugar, cocoa, bananas, coffee, citrus and spices.
In this regard there has been some changes in the composition of the exports
of some territories in the post-war period. The sugar industry has been
abandoned in St. Vincent and St. Lucia and is having serious difficulties in most
territories where it still exists. Banana production which was negligible in the
Windward Islands in the period prior to 1950 has grown to the stage where they
are now rivalling Jamaica as the main supplier to the United Kingdom market.
Saturation of that market has led to levelling off of production with adverse
effects on the growth possibilities of the Windward Island economies. The
impending entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic
Community also poses problems regarding the security of the virtually
guaranteed market in the United Kingdom on which the rapid expansion of
banana production in the Windward Islands has been based.
The slow rate of growth of the traditional agricultural exports in recent years
and the difficulties involved in developing exports of manufactured goods, even
in the larger territories, have led most territories with the necessary endowments
to push the rate of expansion of the tourist industry or to develop an industry
almost from scratch. The tourist industry has become the fastest growing
industry in the Leeward and Windward islands taken as a group and unless the
trend is reversed they may well become 'tourist economies' as the Bahamas,
Bermuda and the Virgin Islands are and as Antigua is fast becoming.2 We return
to the question of tourism later.
Another common characteristic of the economies of the Commonwealth
Caribbean is the high incidence of unemployment and underemployment which
afflicts the labour force. The problems of measuring unemployment in
economies such as these are well known. Furthermore, very few Commonwealth
Caribbean governments publish regular statistics in relation to this matter. It is
generally believed that open unemployment in most of the territories is
somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent. There also tends to be a high incidence
of underemployment arising from the seasonality of some industries and the
absorption of some of the surplus labour into relatively unproductive forms of
'employment' Doubtless this problem will be the subject of special papers and
discussions during the course of this seminar and need not be discussed at any
length at this time but we will return to it briefly in the course of this paper.
Strategies of Development
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Commonwealth Caribbean is
currently at the cross-roads as far as economic policies are concerned. Decisions
which will have to be taken in the next few years will almost certainly have
profound implications for the future development of the area. To get the matter
in proper perspective it is perhaps useful to look back at the strategies which
have been tried since the second World War and the results which have been
obtained. In this connection one ought to point out that the policies followed,
while not exactly uniform in all the territories, have represented, by and large,
variations on the same theme.
The early post-war years represented a period in which capital formation in
general and industrialization in particular were thought to be the crucial
elements in economic development. This view arose out of metropolitan
theorising based on the actual experience of the industrialized countries. This
view tended to be reinforced by the analyses arising out of the study of
development possibilities of India at that time the most-studied of the
so-called underdeveloped countries. The prescriptions arising out of analyses of
these special cases tended to be generalised across the whole developing world
including small island economies such as those of the Caribbean. Puerto Rico
was the first of the territories in this area to be selected for development on the
basis of industrialization. Its position as a low-wage part of the American
economy to which capital and raw materials could move freely from the
mainland and finished goods could move freely in the opposite direction seemed
to fit it admirably for taking advantage of development along the lines envisaged.
Thus 'industrialization by invitation', as it has since come to be known, came to
Eventually this strategy came to be copied by a number of governments in the
English-speaking Caribbean. The disturbances of 1938 which affected most of
the islands drew attention to the economic plight of the area. As export
agriculture stagnated and traditional emigration outlets dried up the problem of
unemployment became serious. The start of the movement toward independence
brought some measure of discussion, albeit rudimentary, about ways in which
the economies could be expanded so as to provide a better livelihood for the
The idea of industrialization as the answer to the problem soon became
popular. The then current orthodoxy held that agriculture could not be
expected to provide the required amount of jobs to absorb the surplus labour
since in many instances the land was already overcrowded. The answer had to lie
in industrialization. Since the various territories were thought to be short of
capital, entrepreneurship and raw materials these would have to be imported to
be combined with the abundant input, viz., unskilled labour which was relatively
cheap. With regard to entrepreneurship the policy makers had apparently failed
to learn the lessons of the war years when in territories such as Jamaica a whole
range of new industries had been created, on local initiative, when imports were
cut off as a result of the shortage of shipping space.
In any case the era of incentive legislation in the Caribbean had arrived. The
official view was that since capital was in short supply in the world as a whole,
countries had to compete in order to get their fair share. Those who did not
offer appropriate incentives would be left behind in the race. What followed is
well known intensive competition among countries to offer concessions such
as tax holidays, accelerated depreciation allowances, subsidized factory space,
duty-free raw materials and the right to export profits in unlimited amounts.
For a while this strategy paid some dividends in terms of boosting production.
In the larger territories a range of import substitution industries sprang up
behind the protective barrier imposed through a combination of tariff barriers
and quantitative restrictions on imports. The optimism which had prevailed in
some quarters regarding the possibilities for development of a substantial trade
in manufactured goods did not turn out to be justified. In some territories where
special incentives were offered to industries producing manufactured goods for
export some measure of success was achieved in the short run. But since most of
these industries were based on foreign raw materials and foreign capital the real
gains to the domestic economy were minimal. In cases such as textiles and
clothing where the medium run prospects for developing a substantial trade were
good the efforts to achieve this end soon ran up against the commercial policies
of the metropolitan countries which moved to restrict imports of the goods in
question so as to protect their 'sick' domestic industries. This was only another
instance of the many obstacles which stand in the way of the development of a
substantial export trade in manufactured goods between the less developed and
the industrialized countries. As a general rule the tariff policies of the latter
countries act as a dampening influence since tariff rates tend to be low on
primary products but rise steeply as the degree of processing of the product
increases. These and other problems have been thoroughly aired at two United
Nations Conferences on Trade and Development (Geneva 1964 and New Delhi
1968) but the problem remained unresolved.
Thus a major problem for the Commonwealth Caribbean countries which
attempted to develop along the path of industrialization was that the limited
possibilities for developing an export trade in industrial products meant that the
main effort had to be concentrated on production for the domestic market. This
policy led to a number of conflicts between the manufacturing interests on the
one hand and the commercial class and the consuming public on the other. Since
imports had to be restricted to make way for domestic production the
commerical classes were faced with the prospect of the loss of a profitable trade.
Furthermore, since in many cases the locally produced substitute was
higher-priced than the imported product which is replaced, the consuming
public, by and large, did not take kindly to the idea of import substitution. This
attitude was reinforced by the belief, usually widespread in colonial or newly
independent countries, that the local product is always inferior to the foreign
one to which the consumer has grown accustomed. Over time, however, the
entry of some of the more influential members of the commercial class into the
manufacturing sector and the exhortation of governments to the population to
'buy local' tends to reduce, though not to remove completely, the tension
induced by industrialization based on import substitution.
However, the limitation of this approach in small economies soon become
apparent. In the first place, since this process depends heavily on imported
inputs the linkage effects (backward and forward) on which sustained economic
development depends do not materialise. The result is that the income and
employment generating effects are limited. The effect on the balance of
payments is also slight since in many cases what is referred to as 'import
substitution' is really only the substitution of local for foreign labour since the
capital is largely foreign-owned, the raw materials are imported and the producer
pays no tax to the government.
The second problem is that the easy phase of import substitution soon somes
to an end. In the early stages it is relatively easy to find commodities which are
being imported and which, despite the small size of the market, can be produced
within the larger of the Commonwealth Caribbean territories. But as time goes
on this problem gets more difficult. Quite apart from the small size of the
market the situation tends to be aggravated by the lop-sided distribution of
income which is characteristic of the typical Caribbean economy. An unequal
distribution of income tends to bias the composition of demand not only
towards imports in general but towards those kinds of imports which are most
difficult to replace by domestic production. Furthermore, the slow rate of
growth of the agricultural sector which accounts for upwards of thirty per cent
of the work force in most of the economies (see Table 3) has meant that the
purchasing power of a large section of the population has remained at levels
where only a very small proportion of income can be devoted to the purchase of
Some proponents of the orthodox view which stressed industrialization as the
key to growth and development had made it clear that in the final analysis the
progress of industrialization would depend on the rate at which incomes could
be raised in the agricultural sector. But in the Commonwealth Caribbean
countries not nearly as much attention was devoted to agriculture, especially
domestic agriculture, as was lavished upon the industrial sector. This does not
mean that governments did not devote financial resources to the agricultural
sector. In Jamaica, for example, a substantial share of the government's
development expenditure has been devoted to agriculture in the post-war period.
A large part of the expenditure has been in the form of subsidies to small
farmers. But in the context of the structural factors which characterize
agriculture (for example, the small acreage of land available to small farmers in
relation to their numbers, the absence of adequate marketing facilities for
domestic produce etc.) the expenditure has .resulted in little benefit to the
society in terms of increased production.
Industrialization at the insular level, based mainly on import substitution,
failed to make any serious impact on the unemployment problem which had
attracted attention in the nineteen forties. In some cases the number of jobs
created by incentive programmes of the type we have described was more than
offset by the decline in employment in export agriculture, especially sugar,
because of mechanisation which was thought to be necessary to preserve the
sector. Typically, the direct employment created by secondary industry for a ten
year period was about one-half of the new entrants to the labour force in one
Most of the new industries were very capital-intensive. Foreign entrepreneurs
brought with them the technology of their own country which, usually, grew
out of the needs of a country with abundant capital and scarce labour. But even
where the industries were locally owned and financed, the absence of a local
capital goods market means that the entrepreneurs could not choose among a
range of technologies but had to imitate that prevailing in the countries from
which the capital goods were imported. The technology which tended to be
adopted was therefore far out of line with what would have been appropriate in
a context of surplus labour and scarce capital.
For a long time the phenomenon of growth without employment tended to
be obscured by the ease with which people from the Commonwealth Caribbean
could emigrate to the United Kingdom which was short of unskilled labour.
Between 1953 and 1960 more than 150,000 persons emigrated from the area to
that country. The Census of 1960 therefore showed reductions in the
unemployment rate in some countries which were due not to the creation of
jobs at a faster rate than the growth of the labour force but simply to the fact of
large scale emigration.
This large scale emigration virtually came to an end with the Commonwealth
Immigrants Act of 1962. Such emigration is as now taking place to the United
States and Canada is small in relation to the movement to the United Kingdom
in the fifties and early sixties but it consists largely of skilled personnel which
the region can ill afford to lose especially as in many of the territories where
growth has been rapid the educational system has lagged in the production of
the types of skills which are needed. The basic point being made here, however,
is that the failure of even the rapidly growing economies to provide jobs at a fast
enough rate to make an impact on the unemployment problem was obscured as
long as emigration outlets were freely available. The reduction in the
opportunities for emigration has coincided with a slowing down in the real
growth rate of most of the economies with the result that unemployment rates
have been tending to rise.
The Movement Towards Regional Co-operation
By the mid-sixties it had become clear to many observers (and some
governments) that the strategy which had held out so much promise in the fifties
had not fulfilled the high hopes to which it had given rise. At that time the view
began to gain currency that, despite the fact that the territories had decided to
go their own way towards constitutional independence, gains could be made to
their mutual benefit through a process of economic integration (or co-operation
as some preferred to call it) at the regional level. Groups such as the
Incorporated Chambers of Commerce favoured a loose grouping involving little
more than a free trade area while university economists advocated a rapid
movement towards economic integration involving, inter alia, a common market,
regional industrial programming,3 joint action to gain control of vital export
sectors which are currently under the control of multi-national corporations4
and integration of air transport facilities.s
The governments opted for the gradual approach. The Caribbean Free Trade
Association which was formed in 1968 has gone some way towards boosting
intra-Caribbean trade in manufactured goods but only a few territories have been
able to share it even this limited success. Trade in agricultural commodities has
not yet received much of a stimulus from the freeing of trade and as can be seen
from Table 2 apart from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados none of
the territories has a manufacturing sector of the size which would permit them
to benefit from free trade in manufactured goods. The immediate gains have
gone to those industries which had some spare capacity and could make inroads
into other Caribbean markets at the expense of extra-regional production.
The gains to the region arising from CARIFTA are unlikely to be spectacular.
As is well known a free trade area is most appropriate where trade between
complementary economies is being severely hampered by the existence of tariffs
and other barriers to trade. In the Commonwealth Caribbean area, where the
structure of production in the respective territories is so similar, meaningful
integration must aim at boosting production as a result of planned activity based
on the pooling of resources within the framework of an enlarged market. This
approach has not yet become the dominant one because governments have
differed greatly in their commitment to the regional approach.
In the meantime the lesser developed countries in the Commonwealth
Caribbean have complained that CARIFTA has conferred little, if any, benefit
on them. Some have even claimed to be worse off as a result of this grouping.
These claims have not yet been subjected to any close scrutiny. But, in any case,
some observers see the recently established Caribbean Development Bank as a
mechanism through which territories which have lagged in their development can
be assisted through the grant of soft-loans, etc. The importance of this aspect of
the matter cannot be denied but it does not remove the urgency of
decision-making regarding the future of regional integration if the process is to
be prevented from grinding to a halt.
As previously mentioned the drive towards import substitution in
manufacturing has lost its impetus. The traditional export industries are
stagnating or growing very slowly. The sugar industry is in trouble in almost
every Commonwealth Caribbean country in which it still survives. The industry
is finding it difficult even to meet quota requirements. The banana industry
which grew rapidly in the Windward Islands in the fifties and early sixties is now
levelling off. Jamaican production of this commodity has been falling for the
past few years. Other agricultural commodities geared to the export market are
facing similar difficulties.
In the circumstances, and in the absence of a well articulated regional
strategy, individual territories are seeing tourism as a way of preventing their
economies from stagnating. Most of the Associated States are taking steps to
cash in on what appears to be the best short-run prospect. Even the relatively
more diversified economies such as Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago are planning to
expand their tourist sectors substantially partly because the
employment-creating potential appears to be greater than that of other sectors.
The Bahamas, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands are already basically tourist
economies and Antigua is becoming one.
A prolonged discussion of the tourist industry is clearly outside the scope of a
paper of this kind.6 But a few observations are in order. In the first place, the
benefits from tourism should be measured in terms of the net rather than the
gross earnings. Unless the economy can produce the goods and services which
tourists consume a high proportion of the earnings flow out to pay for imports
made necessary by the industry. Second, there appears to be a tendency in the
Caribbean for agriculture to decline as tourism expands. An increasing
proportion of food supplies may therefore have to be imported for residents as
well as tourists. Third, tourism tends to lead to increased openness of the
economy with a concomitant increase in the import coefficient arising out of the
demonstration effect of the expenditure patterns of tourists. Fourth, in all
Caribbean Countries tourism has exerted substantial upward pressure on the
price level and in some has led to the alienation of land on a scale which is
beginning to cause alarm. Finally, the social consequences of tourism in the
Caribbean context are only now beginning to be studied.
In the light of the foregoing, it seems reasonable to suggest that while
countries in which the short-run alternatives are limited cannot be expected to
deny themsleves the possibility of sharing in the expansion of what is now the
leading growth industry in international trade, it should not be assumed that the
uninhibited growth of tourism is necessarily a good thing for the economy or the
society. The industry needs careful planning with the aim of integrating it as far
as possible with the rest of the economy. This is a matter about which so little is
known that it could provide a fruitful area for regional collaboration.
Effect of Britain's Entry into the European Economic Community
The impending entry of the United Kingdom for entry into the European
Economic Community faces the Commonwealth Caribbean once more with the
possible loss of preference in the United Kingdom market. This is important in
view of the relatively high share of the region's exports of commodities such as
sugar, bananas and citrus which are absorbed by the United Kingdom market.
Even in countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago which derive a very
small share of gross domestic product from export agriculture, a substantial
portion of the labour force still derives at least a portion of its livelihood from
It is clear that in the light of the importance of these industries to most of the
economies steps will have to be taken to work out an agreement of some kind
with the EEC for retention of preferential access to the United Kingdom market.
The Yaounde Convention, under which the eighteen African countries are
associated with the EEC, will not provide the protection which is needed.
Furthermore, accession to that Convention would mean, in effect, entering into
a free trade area with the EEC. Steps could then be taken to protect local
industries from EEC products only with the permission of the Common Market
Commission. If the Commonwealth Caribbean countries are serious about a
regional programme of industrialization, accession to the Yaounde Convention
would be foolhardy since, in any case, it would not protect the basic
commodities such as sugar, bananas and citrus.
It seems that in their best interest the countries of the Commonwealth
Caribbean, acting in consort, should seek to reach a specially tailored agreement
with the EEC. Such an agreement should aim at providing for continued
preferential access into the United Kingdom of commodities such as sugar,
bananas and citrus in return for preferential access into CARIFTA of a limited
number of specified commodities which the region is unlikely to have the
capability of producing. In other words, the agreement should aim at solving the
short run problem of market access for agricultural products without
jeopardising the possibility for long-run industrial programming in the region.
The question of the role of foreign investment in the economy is currently
very topical, and of interest to all Commonwealth Caribbean countries. The
basic problem relates to direct investment which not only gives foreigners
control over crucial sectors of the economy but leads to outflows of investment
income for as long as the industry remains profitable.
Since company profits are the most important source of savings in a private
enterprise economy and since, by and large, foreign investment goes into some
of the more profitable sectors, there appears to be little hope of getting national
ownership of assets which get started by foreign capital except by some formula
which provides for acquisition based on payment out of future profits.
It is sometimes claimed that the Commonwealth Caribbean countries cannot
get along without large amounts of foreign capital. In this connection, it is
instructive to note that in Jamaica for the period 1959 to 1969 the amount of
investment income accuring to foreigners exceeded the capital inflow into the
country. In other words, during that period Jamaica was, in effect, a net
exporter of capital. In Trinidad and Tobago a similar situation exists and is even
more pronounced. In normal years these economies generate enough surpluses to
meet their investment needs. But a large portion of these surpluses are either
remitted abroad, thus being lost to the economy, or are ploughed back thus
giving rise to even larger claims in the future. It seems, then, that it becomes
increasingly difficult over time to buy back assets which are under foreign
It is not intended to argue that Commonwealth Caribbean countries never
need to resort to foreign capital markets. The argument is, rather, that where
such resort become necessary it is advisable, wherever possible, to borrow at
fixed interest rates rather than invite direct investment for which repayment
In the context of the present situation it seems that in the short run the
biggest obstacle to national acquisition of those sectors of the economy now
under foreign ownership is not so much the question of availability of capital
but the problem of disposition of the output of sectors such as bauxite-alumina
for which there is no free market.7 Regional or national strategies aimed at
pushing the process to the stage of aluminium would have to contend with the
problem of access to markets for the product, a subject on which little if any
research has so far been carried out.
The strategy of development which has been pursued in most Commonwealth
Caribbean countries in the post-war period has led to fairly rapid increases in
output. However, the process has typically been one of growth without
employment. Furthermore, the functioning of the economy has tended to
reinforce the inequality which has been characteristic of most of the economies
of the region. While adequate up-to-date estimates of real output are unavailable
for most of the territories such indicators as are available suggest that for many
the rate of growth of real per capital income in recent years has been
unsatisfactory. Furthermore, unemployment rates, which tended to fall in the
fifties and early sixties due mainly to emigration are once more on the increase.
The tourist industry shows signs of becoming the biggest growth industry in the
area but requires careful control to avoid undue dislocation of the economy and
disruption of the society. The progress of regional co-operation has been slow
and has so far not made much impact on the region. More rapid integration is a
necessary, though not sufficient, condition for transformation of the region. A
re-assessment of the whole strategy of development is called for and there are
hopeful signs of a growing recognition of this fact.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT PER CAPITAL 1967
Gross Domestic Product
Population Product Per Capita
(Thousands) EC $ million EC $
Antigua 68.0 34.0 500
Bahamas 139.0 258.6' 1872'
Barbados 250.6 189.2 755
British Honduras 113.0 66.1 585
British Virgin Is. 10.5 9.6 914
Cayman Islands 12.0 4.8 400
Dominica 70.0 26.9 384
Grenada 100.0 38.0 380
Guyana 690.0 378.5 548
Jamaica 1876.0 1645.4 877
Montserrat 14.0 6.6 471
St. Kitts 57.6 24.0 417
St. Lucia 108.0 45.4 420
St. Vincent 91.0 28.4 312
Trinidad & Tobago 1010.0 1410.0 1396
Turks & Caicos Is. 7.5 2.6 347
Notes: 'Gross National Product for 1966.
(TABLES 2 & 3 FOLLOW)
1. William Demas, The Economics of Development in Small Countries with Special
Reference to the Caribbean, McGill University Press, 1965.
2. Carleen O'Loughlin, Economic and Political Change in the Leeward and Windward
Islands, Yale University Press, 1968, p. 145.
3. H. Brewster and C.Y. Thomas, The Dynamics of West Indian Economic Integration,
Institute of Social and Economic Research, UWI, 1967.
4. N. Girvan, The Caribbean Bauxite Industry, ISER, UWI, 1967. George Beckford, The
West Indian Banana Industry, ISER, UWI, 1967.
5. S. DeCastro, Problems of the Caribbean Air Transport Industry, ISER, UWI, 1967.
6. For a fuller discussion see S. DeCastro and 0. Jefferson, "A Tentative Appraisal of the
Tourist Industry in the Commonwealth Caribbean", Proceedings of the Regional Conference
on Devaluation, Institute of Social and Economic Research, UWI, 1968.
7. N.B. Since this was written the Government of Guyana naturalised the holdings of
the Demarara Bauxite Company on the basis of payment out of future profits.
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT BY SECTORS 1965
Bar- British Virgin
Antigua2 bados Honduras Is.
Export Agriculture 19.9 )
Other Agriculture 2.8 6.2 ) 20.6
3.1 10.2 27.4 )
26.2 9.4 ) 20.6
Communication 3.7 5.7 0.8
13.1 22.5 8.4 8.9
14.5 N. A. N.A. 13.4
Professions 5.8 10.7 9.1 2.1
Finance 4.0 N.A. N.A.
Rent of Dwellings 6.9 4.1 N.A. 3.4
Government 19.9 11.1 8.4 28.9
Trin. Turks &
Mont- St. St. St. and Caicos
Dominica Grenada Guyana Jamaica serrat Kitts Lucia Vincent Tobago Islands
18.9 23.8 20.8 4.8 3.5 27.6 26.0 18.6 3.0
16.4 15.0 9.4 6.8 21.5 11.2 9.1 12.9 5.9 5.3
16.4 9.7 24.1
6.5 3.2 7.6 15.0 1.6 2.2 4.7 4.0 14.4 3.9
8.9 8.9 5.2 10.7 22.1 9.4 8.5 6.0 5.0 7.9
2.1 3.7 3.4 6.5 7.4 1.0 2.1 2.9 3.0
7.4 12.6 12.0 14.4 13.5 12.6 17.6 15.4
0.7 3.0 N.A. N.A. 4.8 1.5 3.4 1.8 N.A.
4.7 4.9 4.2 14.4 2.0 5.4 5.0 4.6 5.7 7.3
2.5 4.3 3.0 4.4 4.0 4.2 3.4
12.5 7.4 2.5 3.4 5.2 6.1 6.0 10.7 4.0 20.1
17.8 13.5 12.2 7.5 24.8 17.9 16.8 18.8 10.1 33.6
100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
'In most instances Public Utilities are included in the Government Sector. In the case of Barbados it is included with Transport. The coverage for
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago is not uniform.
2Date for Antigua is for year 1968.
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
EMPLOYMENT BY SECTORS (percentages)
Barbados Bahamas Guyana Jamaica Windwards Trinidad
1960 1963 1960 1960 1960 1960
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing 26.4 15.5 37.0 39.0 46.0 21.1
Mining 0.6 3.8 0.7 0.2 4.9
Manufacturing 15.2 7.6 16.3 14.8 11.2 15.5
Construction 10.5 14.6 8.0 8.2 10.8 11.4
Transport and Communications 5.2 6.8 4.8 3.2 3.7 6.2
Distribution 17.3 10.6 11.3 9.9 9.7 13.3
Other Services 24.7 44.9 18.8 24.2 18.3 27.5
100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0