“Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow”


Across the Caribbean, food imports have become an expensive problem, prompting Jamaica, one of the world’s most fertile regions, to reclaim its agricultural past. Imports roughly doubled in price over the past decade. To combat the rising cost, rather than turning to big agribusinesses, officials recruited everyone they could to support their bold new strategy: make farming patriotic and abundant, behind homes, hospitals, schools, even prisons. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production isn’t simply a sales pitch, it is a government motto.

Still, farming is often seen as a reminder of plantations and slavery in these regions, it’s a deep challenge. Yet at regional meetings for years, it has be emphasized by Caribbean officials that “food security,” primarily its availability and access, is at top priority. A number of countries are responding by branding foreign food like meats and high-calorie snacks a threat, and locally grown food responsible and smart. Jamaica started earlier than most. About a decade ago, the government unveiled a national food security campaign whose slogan is “Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow.” Grocery stores now market local produce with large stickers and noticeable displays.

As a result they even have an “Eat Jamaican Day” This past year in November of 2015 they were happy to note that their food import bill which declined by some 4.5% in 2014, is continuing along that trend in 2015. Even in the wake of droughts and bush fires, the agricultural sector grew by some 3.3%, thus contributing to the overall 1.5% growth in the economy. The agricultural sector continues to be a critical source of employment and income generation and foreign exchange earnings, as well as rural and national development. Eat Jamaican fittingly and concisely captures the Ministry of Agricultures’ desire to continuously enhance and expand agricultural production to ensure food security and food safety for all Jamaicans, as well as utilizing the sector to grow the Jamaican economy and so increase the welfare and prosperity of Jamaican people.

The spread of local knowledge plays a huge part in this. Local knowledge compiles complex bodies of know-how. It is practices and skills that are developed and sustained by peoples/communities with shared histories and experiences. This knowledge provides a framework for decision-making in a number of social, economic and environmental activities and livelihoods among rural peoples. In Jamaica, as elsewhere, such knowledge has been shaped and modified by continuous farm level experimentation over many generations. Local knowledge, and its associated skills, has been developed outside the formal educational system and is embedded in culture and steeped in tradition. The Jamaica 4-H has been active in the spread of local knowledge and youth are a vital aspect of in it. Young people are contributing significantly to the transformation of agriculture in Jamaica and have begun to make a significant impact on the way business is conducted in the sector.

In 2015 Jamaica faced one of the most devastating droughts in their recent history. Despite that, the agricultural sector, though slow, continued to record growth. Andre Anderson, Jamaica 4-H Clubs National Centre Coordinator, attributes this to the fact that, “we have a younger and more brilliant set of farmers, people who are proud to tell you that they are farmers, because no longer is agriculture something to scoff at or turn up their nose at,”

Many of Jamaica’s current young farmers participated in their 4-H club, and due to the training members undergo, they enter the field knowledgeable on how to manage their operations, in particular soil conservation and parasite management. The impact of the Jamaica 4-H has already had impressive reach into the agriculture sector because, contrary to our belief, the average age of  Jamaican farmers is 37 years, which is 23 years lower than the previous 60 year average.

Anderson further challenged the nation’s young people “to continue to re-energize the Jamaican spirit of resilience, hard work and passion, genuine love for each other and unflinching faith for a better and brighter tomorrow.”

Jamaica serves as an outstanding example of the things a country can accomplish through unity and shared interest. Still, some questions arise such as: How practical/ wise is it for Jamaican’s to reduce their food imports? Is there some type of livelihood protection for Jamaican Farmers? Can Jamaica’s strategy be implement/or work elsewhere?





Work Cited:

Davidson, Andrine. “Youth Impact on Agriculture Highlighted.” Jis.gov.jm. Jamaican Information Service, 13 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://jis.gov.jm/youth-impact-agriculture-highlighted/>.


Beckford, Clinton, and David Barker. “The Role and Value of Local Knowledge in Jamaican Agriculture: Adaptation and Change in Small-scale Farming.” The Geographical Journal 173.2 (2007): 118-28. Researchgate.com. June 2007. Web. <https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Clinton_Beckford/publication/227625010_The_role_and_value_of_local_knowledge_in_Jamaican_agriculture_adaptation_and_change_in_smallscale_farming/links/544ac4e20cf2bcc9b1d31ba1.pdf>.


Cave, Damien. “As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Aug. 2013. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/world/americas/as-cost-of-importing-food-soars-jamaica-turns-to-the-earth.html?_r=0>.

“Government of Jamaica: Growth Agenda Policy Paper.” (n.d.): n. pag. Http://jamaicachamber.org.jm/. Jamaica Chamber, Mar. 2015. Web. <http://jamaicachamber.org.jm/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Growth-Agenda-Policy-Paper.pdf>.

Kellier, Derrick. “The Eat Jamaican Day Expo.” Moa.gov.jm. Ministry of Agriculture, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. <http://moa.gov.jm/Speeches/2015/20151125_The%20Eat%20Jamaican%20Day%20Expo.php>.

You Think You Own What Ever Land You Land On

This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.

Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.

‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.

Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.

Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.

Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).

In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?

*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.

“You think I’m an ignorant savage

And you’ve been so many places

I guess it must be so

But still I cannot see

If the savage one is me

How can there be so much that you don’t know

You don’t know


You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”



Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/18/opinion/land-grabs-africa-mark-bowman/index.html>.

Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/opinion/water-grabs-africa/index.html>.

Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.

Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/Samburu-residents-protest-land-grabbing/-/1107872/3136504/-/8pmnagz/-/index.html>.

Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Reliefweb.com. Oct. 2012. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/landgrabbingprimer.pdf>.

PNG as a Counterdevelopment Model: Who Pays the Price?

In Prime Minister O’Neil’s second address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, he draws attention to the damage that can be caused to the environment, and the people who live there, when big companies do not exercise proper care. The Ok Tedi located in Papua New Guinea is often referred to as one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the world, well known for its disposal of mine tailings into the local river system, which led to an international lawsuit and ultimately to the abandoning of the project. Australia-based BHP Billiton, is the world’s biggest mining company and in 2001, they sold its profitable Ok Tedi mine after having destroyed more than 2,400 acres of rainforest. (Perlez). The mine produces 20% of PNG’s GDP, but it has also disrupted the traditional food system and the lives of more than 50,000 people by putting 90,000 tons of rock waste and tailings per day into the Fly River system (Alder).

Currently, PNG government has taken over the mine and Between November of 2005 and June of 2007, a team from The Keystone Center helped organize and implement a multiparty negotiation process targeted at increased compensation for people affected by river contamination from the mine.  After 18 months of effort, a settlement was finally agreed on. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was established with representatives of the nine affected regions along the river, the mining company, the government,  that will ultimately give the people in the affected area about 1.1 billion kina (roughly US$350 million) in funds, projects, and services (Adler).

Still, to often pressure is put on the people living in proximity to the mine to choose between environmental degradation and monetary compensation. They were asked “Do you want the environment or money?” I few individuals answered by saying “environment.” After continued discussion someone finally called out in Melanesian Pidgin, “Tupela wantaim!” or “Both of them at once,” and the crowd loudly reacted with approval. Their desire is to protect the environment as well as have access to development opportunities and money. Since so much of the regional economy is dependent on the mines operation, closure isn’t an ideal option. The extra money provided by compensation helps support villages who have been severely affected by pollution. They cannot imagine letting the mine close down without gaining some lasting form of economic benefit in return for all the damage that it has done to their environment (Rubinstein).

A significant consequence of this paradox is that reliance on counterglobalization (anti-globalization) may reduce the outcome of indigenous movements to a simplification of an either/ or choice between the environment and development. Like many indigenous movements, the campaign against the Ok Tedi mine has more complex objectives than simply closing the mine. The movement sought compensation for the damages to the environment and to limit further pollution of the river. Participants hoped that the mine would continue to operate, providing economic benefits and opportunities, though not at the cost of the river and surrounding rain forest. Even though the campaign and lawsuit against the Ok Tedi mine tried to balance the two objectives, they were often misunderstood. When Indigenous movements diverge from an antidevelopment agenda, they run into the risk of being seen as “greedy” instead of “green”. To this day people argue about the balance between the economic benefits to be gained from keeping the mine open (to local people and central government) and the impacts on people and the environment (felt by local people on their own) (Rubinstein).

Nevertheless, the negotiations did achieve an important effect and demonstrated a new and promising model for other discussions of similar scale and importance.

The now state-owned Ok Tedi mines reopen will come as a relief to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, which is suffering from a revenue shortage. Due to low rainfall related to El Niño, the mine once again suspended operations in August 2015. The drought led to low water levels on the Fly River, which prevents the shipment of ores for export. A majority of the mine’s employees were put onto a basic-needs allowance. (The Economist).

Prime Minster O’Neil has pointed out that compensation arrangements put in place to protect communities are being mismanaged. However, he states that, “Today, Ok Tedi is changing.” And that new leadership has brought a turnaround. He states his position that big companies must have big responsibilities and that, “…BHP, and other mining companies housed in Papua New Guinea, must share the responsibility for the environmental damage done to our communities. Where they lack clean drinking water, where diseases that were not known in our communities are prevailing in many of our communities, we must make sure that we attend to this as well.”(PNG)

Though this case study is still within the making, Papua New Guinea could possibly stand as a model that other SIDS can use to learn from. Lessons on cooperation, inclusive and centered on the community and the environment, are an essential start. Despite the complications PNG may be facing, I believe they are taking tiny steps toward the right direction in advocating for the protection of their environment and more control in development of their state.



Work Cited:

Adler, Peter S., Janesse Brewer, and Caelan McGee. “The Ok Tedi Negotiations.” The Keystone Center http://208.72 156 (2007).

Perlez, Jane, and Kirk Johnson. “Behind Gold’s Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 14 June 2010. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/world/behind-golds-glitter-torn-lands-and-pointed-questions.html>.

Rubinstein, Robert A. “Anthropology and Advocacy.” Science 237.4817 (1987): 823. Researchgate.com. SAGE Publication, 2002. Web. <https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Rubinstein2/publication/6069966_Anthropology_and_advocacy/links/5584037d08ae89172b8794b7.pdf>.

“Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia.” Papua New Guinea Today. PNG, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. < http://news.pngfacts.com/2016/03/environmental-risks-highlighted-by-pm.html>

“Ok Tedi to Restart Production in March.” Country.eiu.com. The Economist, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=73932991&Country=Papua%20New%20Guinea&topic=Economy&subtopic=Forecast&subsubtopic=External+sector&u=1&pid=1924039176&oid=1924039176&uid=1>.

The Cost of Pride

“In Papua New Guinea we have just witnessed the worst impacts of climate change.

“Rising sea levels and tidal surges that are taking place in many parts of our country, we have just had a seven-month long devastating drought and frost, as well as extreme storms.

“Already our people in our coastal villages are becoming refugees and are resettling on the mainland.” [I.E. The Carteret Island]

“We have had drought that has destroyed crops has leaving many of our communities without food.

“But we have been able to manage those issues by ourselves…” (PNG) -Prime Minister O’Neil

Here is the situation:

Papua New Guniea has been experiencing a prolonged dry spell since May of 2015. On August 7, 2015 The National Weather Service (NWS) declared that Papua New Guniea will be experiencing a severe El Nino event, which was forecasted to continue for 8–10 months with reduced rainfall in all parts of the country. This is expected to be worse than the 1997/98 drought. It has been estimated that approximately 2 million people will be effected with severity varying from place to place. The NDC’s summary updates revealed that almost all of the Highlands Provinces are experiencing Category 3 and 4 while some on Category 5 droughts on the Government’s drought scale. These categories indicate that there’s no food in gardens, only famine foods (ferns, unripe bananas, bitter yams) are being eaten, and water is only available at distance. (ReliefWeb)

The normal rainfall usually expected in November is now not expected until first half of 2016. This is overlapping with the dry season which usually occurs between May and October. Even more concerns have been rising that the severe food insecurity could potentially result in the displacement of a large number of affected people, leading to peace disturbances, widespread inter-tribal conflicts over limited resources and an increase in incidents of gender-based violence. There’s also increasing reports of babies and elderly people becoming ill as a result of the severe drought. (ReliefWeb)

As a result, the Government has activated the National Emergency Centre and the National Disaster Response Committee has made funds as well as relief supplies available. Delivery of relief supplies will be coordinated by the National Disaster Centre (NDC) and the Defense Force. (EPoA)

“That is probably one reason why we have not had the international attention about the worst drought we have ever experienced in Papua New Guinea. “

“We have been able to manage it because of our ability to engage with our communities, and our Government’s commitment to making sure that we feed our people over that period of time.”

Admittedly, to say this is such a severe drought, I can agree that it has gotten very little international attention. Currently, PNG has been independently managing the drought response through its new disaster. One article stated that they were not accepting outside help with food delivery. On this, Prime Minister O’Neil stated, “The Australian Government has not offered the Papua New Guinea government any help, we have not requested [it], it’s entirely up to them,”

“We are not going to go hand-in-cap every time we’re in trouble. We need to manage issues ourselves.

“It is not about pride, it is about making sure that our people are relying on each other and relying on themselves.”

Unsurprisingly, this has received much criticism and critique. Concerns have been made that released funds to districts have not been targeted to the most affected communities. Some areas have reported not receiving timely relief, some such as the Kanma village, report having not received any aid and that they are starving feeling as if the government forgot about them. The Government acknowledged difficulties in distributing supplies from regional centres.

In October, the Australian Government pledged $9 million to drought aid in the Pacific, $5 million of which went to programs in PNG. The article Author wrote, “The money was for coordination, mapping and resilience programs, not for the delivery of relief supplies” (Tlozek)

There is a lot to be analyzed about this situation. Is it important to keep pride? When should you give pride up? Does pride mean something different to developing countries such as PNG?

I believe Prime Minister O’Neil’s point is valid, and I applaud him in ways for wanting to independently handle this situation. The analysis is complex. I encourage and would love for all counties to be able to handle situations independently like this. However, when resources are scarce and delivery is inadequate with many people starving, becoming sick, and dying it is easy to see the situation as the Prime Minster being to prideful. We speak of the blindness of pride, and the stubborn act of doing everything alone and not asking for assistance when it’s needed. However, we see the desire to dictate mediation from the article’s author, Eric Tlozek, who states what the money should be used for.

It’s unfortunate, though, I get it. Sometimes, all you have left is your pride, when that happens, you have to hold on to it. I want to stress, that pride, in short, produces perseverance.

With any luck the government could be able to handle this situation on it’s own. If not, hopefully, they can receive assistance that does not compromise their integrity. Regardless, how these situations are handled and its result, will breed extraordinary resilience of communities in PNG in coming times, especially as their heightened risk of disruption as a result of climate change.

Meteorologists are still cautious to not link the drought to climate change, but while wide-ranging temperature records for the Highlands don’t exist, some studies report they are one degree hotter than 30 years ago. Manager of Climate Monitoring at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Karl Braganza, compellingly states that the glaciers around Puncak Jaya in West Papua (a mountain range that runs from the east to the west across the island of New Guinea) are disappearing rapidly, presenting a strong indication of warming in the PNG Highlands (Stuff). These symptoms can’t be ignored. In the end…

“We must make sure that these communities and their ways of life, is protected.

… More about Papua New Guinea in next post.

*Italicized words are of Prime Minister O’Neil



“Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia.” Papua New Guinea Today. PNG, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. < http://news.pngfacts.com/2016/03/environmental-risks-highlighted-by-pm.html>

“Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) Papua New Guinea: Drought.” ReliefWeb (n.d.): n. pag. Ifrc.org. ReliefWeb, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/MDRPG005dref.pdf>.

“Papua New Guinea’s Food Bowl Is All but Empty as Drought Affects 2 Million People.” Stuff.co.nz. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/76854432/papua-new-guineas-food-bowl-is-all-but-empty-as-drought-affects-2-million-people>.

Tlozek, Eric. “PNG PM Rejects Reports of Widespread Deaths Due to Drought.” ABC News. N.p., 03 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-03/png-peter-oneill-rejects-reports-widespread-deaths-severe-dought/7219006>.

Resilience in Fragile Environments.

Environmental complications, whether natural or man made will inevitably occur. My goal is to look at systems and policies in place that initiate/complicate the problem but also examine how increase resilience in communities.

These problems will be analyzed using Small Island Developing States (SIDS), primarily the West Indies, as references to highlight these concerns. Due to their ecological fragility and economic vulnerability, SIDS are expected to face many trials and limitations in pursuing sustainable development. Critical development will also be explored where these concerns intersect.

Like my home state of Louisiana, The Caribbean is plagued by the threat of hurricanes as it sits in ‘Hurricane Alley’. As these poor countries try to weather the devastation of one hurricane after another, they become examples of dual disasters. Due to rising temperature, contributed to climate change, storms are only predicted to become more severe generating discussion of the possible need for a category 6 to be invented (Edmond).

A number of environmental problems may be discussed such as: climate change & sea-level rise, biodiversity, freshwater resources, pollution, agriculture, energy, tourism, and etc. Among these, climate change and its accompanying impacts are expected to pose the greatest threat to the environment and therefore to sustainable development. SIDS are thought to be ecologically and economically friable due to livelihoods being dependent on a fragile marine ecosystem (Ghina).

These small Caribbean countries have limited influence on decisions being made (or not made). These inequalities range to trade and finance, putting the regions at a major disadvantage in preparing for and coping with disasters, both economic and environmental, but are also being attacked on many fronts by issues they cannot control (Edmond). Through this blog I hope to show how smart decisions and actions influenced by locals could make an enormous difference for increased resilience and wellbeing of SIDS regions (Revkin).

I also will examine adaptive capacity and building resilience in regions vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change, and the pressure put on leaders to incorporate climate change resilience into development plans and policies (Singh).




Edmonds, Kevin. “Climate Change and the Caribbean.” Editorial. Third World Resurgence No. 264/265 Aug.-Sept. 2012: 15-16. Climate Change and the Caribbean. Web. <http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2012/264-265/cover03.htm>.

Ghina, Fathimath. “Sustainable development in small island developing states.” Environment, Development and Sustainability 5.1-2 (2003): 139-165.

Revkin, Andrew C. “Protecting Parrotfish on the Path to a Caribbean Reef Revival.” Dot Earth Protecting Parrotfish on the Path to a Caribbean Reef Revival Comments. New York Times, 4 July 2014. Web. <http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/04/protecting-parrotfish-on-the-path-to-a-caribbean-reef-revival/http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/04/protecting-parrotfish-on-the-path-to-a-caribbean-reef-revival/>.

Singh, Bahwan, and Marc Cohen. “Climate Change Resilence: The Case of Haiti.” Www.oxfam.org. Oxfam, Mar. 2014. Web. <file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/rr-climate-change-resilience-haiti-260314-en.pdf>.