Ignoring rural development will be to our peril - Stanberry
Sustained economic development is not likely to be achieved if parliamentarians and other policymakers continue to exclude rural communities from their national development strategies, according to Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
"Rural development is not going to happen unless there is sustained economic activities in our rural spaces. Rural development is more than just building a post office and a sports club and a school and an in Internet cafÈ in Prickly Pole. That is necessary but not sufficient. We have to have economic activity that will sustain people," he told Wednesday's Eat Jamaican expo, held at the Jamaica 4H headquarters, 95 Old Hope Road, Kingston.
Stanberry lamented that for too long, political and other leaders had failed to appreciate the rural component of national economic development despite the very obvious linkage.
"Few people make the connection between our unfortunate high crime rate, incidents of urban decay, and the fact that so many of our people neglect agriculture. Every time I go into the country and breathe that fresh air, see the fresh food and the ease with which people live, not having the stress of traffic and all the other stresses of city life, I wonder why somebody would leave the whole one acre that they live on to come and cram into some inner-city place."
RATHER GO BACK TO COUNTRY
There is need for concerted action to stem the rural to urban human resources drift, with many people subjecting themselves to a reduced standard of living in search of all too elusive economic empowerment, the senior civil servant noted.
"I saw, the other day, pictures on the TV of the kind of conditions in some of the inner city. I'd rather go back to country and use a pit toilet than live in those conditions. When we support local agriculture, when we support the Eat Jamaican campaign, what we are doing is to deliberately provide a basis for economic expansion in our rural spaces, and we have to be deliberate about that," said Stanberry.
The permanent secretary, who is a native of Clarendon, said that he would be among the first to head back to the 'country' if the opportunity was right.
"I would give up my job in Kingston any day or as soon as I can find a means of living in the rural spaces and make money. I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that we have all the fundamentals to make rural life prosperous; make our rural spaces improved and increase with economic activities. In that context, I am happy that the Tourism Linkage Council is here because the quantum of food that is consumed in our hotels and in the tourism sector, generally, is sufficient to stimulate and expand agricultural production right across Jamaica if we are deliberate in making the linkages between the farm and the hotel sector," he said.