Columns

Entrust the church with food security

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, October 26, 2012    

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IF the IMF deal fails, the world as we know it changes. Fear not, as the key thing is we will have to work for what we want. Selfreliance! Imagine the terror of having to live within our means. Lord, deliver us! The borrower does not dictate the deal but our work is clear-cut. Portia should now empower a team to flesh out our future. No more “waiting for Godot”! The IMF is not God, so let's get to work. Job number 1 is food. The church is our best mobiliser. Seeds planted long ago now bloom in every community. We can leverage it. Good IMF deal, bad deal, no deal at all, we still need food. Let's pre-empt the IMF and use the power of the church to grow food. They cannot deny us as we gave them land and tax status. Food is man's energy source; without it we die, no people to praise God, no church. Why not align our most successful movement with our greatest need? I am sure some thinker has an equation for this, but meantime let's muddle through using local resources and brains.

We have food security as ceteris paribus we have food, though with many “ifs and buts”. The containers come from Florida, Guyana, Carolina, New Zealand, Idaho, Malaysia, Brazil, Nova Scotia, Georgia, Manitoba, Wisconsin – Wow! Local geniuses don't innovate in food; nor semiconductors, weapons systems, nuclear or aerospace. They are not into necessities or the cutting edge. They favour vanity projects. We buy bone, fat, offal which the Americans don't even eat. Are we less than them? For this, I am not proud of our Cabinets. We compete for chicken back against African nations that have drought, famine and locust – unacceptable! It is criminal to be on fertile land with good climate and then outbid starving people. We can grow corn, soya – not very well, but let's start and hone our skill and yields. Our farmers need subsidy just as farmers in the USA, and the billions we pay them for offal tells me Cabinet can afford it. Yes, we might pay more but we would keep the cash and jobs here. Cabinet must repent, seek forgiveness and grasp this nettle! The IMF must say, “Support local farmers.”

We chat a lot, we run fast, are minstrels of the world – so what? Misplaced priorities – we can't feed our kids. “Congrats, Mr Bolt, now why can't your nation feed itself?” Answer: “Say what? Lyad! We have any amount of Kentucky an’ an’…” Reporter replies: “Thank you, Sir!” Ever go to schools where they dilate on their sports trophies and Festival medals? “Teacher, show us your exam results and educated students.” We praise ourselves: “We are creative, world-class, innovative; win this, win that, we are the best” geniuses with computers; awards, art, entrepreneurs. We can't feed our kids, stupid! No invention, no culture can replace food. Above Liguanea we have professors “to stone dawg”. We can't feed ourselves! Create a chicken with many backs and you will make billions and replace a thousand containers of chicken back. Plant corn, make man and animal feed; make poultry medicine, make money. Why don't our innovators create the everyday stuff we need, as they do in the USA? We lead the world in hypertension and diabetes. Why not invent medicines, make billions and help people? We have a lot of “poppy show”. Are you world-class? Feed my people! Selah!

Will God feed us? I think not. He gave his chosen brains and they make the Negev bloom. I trawled with an Israeli friend for months. He told me, “If we got Jamaica (Jews were offered Guyana), we would now rule the world”. When the Spanish came, cassava, sweet potato and fish were abundant. Why do our brainy people not consider food production? Check the success pages; they innovate in esoteric or marginal things – but we need food! They can sell $1b of essential food right here every month but very little of their product. Don't they know?

Cabinets support the subsidised American, European and New Zealand farmers and penalise our farmers. Incidentally, Trinidad rebranded its agency “Ministry of Food”. Like us, they have no big agriculture, only food. “Sir Roger, rebranding our ministry would focus minds.” Cabinets fix the odds against local farmers, buy cut-price foreign food when they know it's subsidised. They should help farmers develop critical mass, lower costs and raise quality. Do some sensitivity analyses; at what price will Cabinet buy local food? What's the threshold for container food? Our flag means little if we don't produce 75 per cent of what we eat. Wake up! Food is political. Ask North Korea. Cheap foreign food keeps us poor. Let's pay our farmers a premium as the USA does. We are poor as we won't feed ourselves! Miss P, we don't have to hear from the IMF, the hill we failed to climb in the 70s is still before us. Get going now!

What does God have to do with producing food? The church can inspire the community; Cabinet can give land, inputs, experts; business give management, marketing, money. We can double output by 2014 and again by 2016. We can have a “Food Bank” in every parish come Easter 2014. They say God calls on “singers and players of instruments” and the “fleet of foot to breast the tape”. Bulls! Food is more important than cavorting on stage for an hour or sprinting for 10 minutes. I would trade all Usain's medals for food sustainability. We create God in our own image and think He endorses what we like. Nonsense! We pray for rain, for God to turn storms away – fine we can't do those. But we can grow our own food. Prayer for God to provide food in lush Jamaica is futile. Yea, a sin. When His people were hungry in a desert, did He send a minstrel or sprinter? Selfserving blasphemy! He rained manna on an arid land. Must He rain food in this land of wood and water? Get a grip!

Incidentally, what's with the Jamaica Livestock Association? The body and blood of TP Lecky; the Jamaica Hope, Black, Red and Brahman breeds; the small-stock champion of the small man? The one-cow farmer who sends his kids to school on the Nestlé milk cheque? The commercial herds are depleted. Will the breed herds disappear too? What of the rabbit and goat societies? Where do we get turkey chicks, one bag of feed for the backyard fowl? Every home needs a few IMF fowls. Roger must take a look at the JLA. We could all be very sorry.

This troika of church, state and private sector can create food sufficiency.There is a business model. Miss P, get Roger Clarke and his team, Howard Gregory and a clutch of bishops, Chris Zacca and the moguls, lock them in a room with a catalyst to create the model. We can be a great little country, but to win we must have a ticket. This is our ticket. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the

minister of education.

franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com 

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