Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Bodles rehab on the cards - Controversy over name change

Published:Monday | February 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
A group of Jamaica Hope heifers at the Bodles Research Station in Old Habour, St Catherine.
Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture.

Plans for the long overdue comprehensive rehabilitation of the Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour, St Catherine, are on the table, according to Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. He gave that assurance recently, but did not commit to a start-up date or offer any information on the extent of the overhaul.

"We have a plan to bring back Bodles," he disclosed during a presentation of equipment to boost the seed-production capacity by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) at the agriculture ministry's Hope Gardens, St Andrew, head office.

"More will be said by the ministers on that," added the permanent secretary in response to a statement by Barton Clarke, executive director of CARDI.




"Don't forget that Bodles was the centrepiece of agricultural development and research in this region. CARDI wants to be in a position not only to provide you with the equipment for seeds, but to assist you in bringing back Bodles to its rightful place as a premier research institution ... and we stand ready and able," Clarke said.

In recent years, most of the research work done at Bodles has centred on plant material, with development of the Bodles Globe pumpkin variety its most recent offering.

Bodles, these days, is a far cry and poor imitation of the premier institution which brought the world to Jamaica more than 60 years ago. For it was on June 25, 1952 that T.P. (Thomas Philip) Lecky, the renowned livestock geneticist, unveiled to members of the international scientific community the Jamaica Hope, the first of four tropically adapted cattle breeds developed in concert with small farmers across Jamaica.

While there is still some level of research and development currently taking place in livestock, with consultant veterinarian Dr Michael Motta leading the charge in embryo transfer as an option for rapid multiplication in cattle, most of the buildings that housed research scientists are in ruins. Some of the barns are also in poor condition.

The deplorable state of the facility is among the main reasons Dr Karl Wellington, another famed livestock geneticist who built on the legacy of T.P. Lecky, took exception to the announcement in 2011 by then agriculture minister Robert Montague to rename Bodles in honour of his late friend and mentor. Even though the minister advised the staff to prepare for this pending name change, nothing has happened in that regard since. For Wellington, that would have represented a devaluation of the great scientist's name and reputation.

"I am disappointed that it was not carried through at the appropriate time. Why at this time when you have had a place named as a centre of excellence years ago and there is nothing excellent going on there at this time? The time when it should have been done, it wasn't done. Now they are hoping that by just naming it T.P. Lecky Station, it will automatically move back into excellence. I hope that it does, but I am very, very sceptical," he told The Gleaner.




Wellington's disappointment in how successive administrations have failed to understand and appreciate the value of research and development as pivotal to the country's economic growth agenda is matched by their neglect of the memory of T.P. Lecky.

Following Lecky's death in 1994, he was among the group of scientists who lobbied for the station to be renamed in Lecky's honour. While then Agriculture Minister Seymour Mullings favoured such a move, others felt that because it was a multipurpose research station, this would have overshadowed the work of crop scientists and others at Bodles.

"The feedback that we got was that the Ministry of Agriculture came up with the bright idea that it was unfair to name the station the T.P. Lecky Memorial Station. However, if we wished, we could name a barn after T.P. Lecky. I was so vexed, I don't even talk about it," Wellington recalled.

His main concern is that the honour so well-deserved has been too long in coming and that the place where Lecky created history is no where near the first-rate facility it was then. As a result, he contends that the association could harm, rather than enhance, Lecky's reputation.