These beautiful rocky islands are home to approximately 109,000 citizens who can benefit from an increase of sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, personally and economically. The Grenadine islands consist of Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau and Union, which form a chain of landmasses leading to Grenada.
Only a portion of the island’s 150 square miles is being utilized, with a large part dedicated to agriculture (25 percent) while the majority is forest (68 percent). Despite much of the land being used for agriculture, it only makes up about 7 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
With most of the population centered around the nation’s capital, Kingstown, much of the agriculture comes from small family farms outside of the capital. But two crops, bananas and arrowroot, in particular, have the potential to change the country’s economic condition and future circumstances for the good.
Despite the recent threat, plans to encourage the farming of bananas have come in the form of the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) for the sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In 2010, BAM was created by the European Union as an initiative to help developing countries export bananas better; of the developing countries, African, Pacific and other Caribbean nations were chosen. Essentially designed to create economic opportunities, competitiveness and diversification of sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the initiative involved EC$18 million to install.
BAM is based on minimizing poverty through strategic investing that increases banana production along with other crops, such as root vegetables. So far, the financial packages have established a food science lab at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College and other infrastructural add-ons that aid in banana production, specifically, such as upgrades to packing facilities.
This root vegetable alone has the potential to significantly reduce the poverty of whoever grows it. The sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is unique for being one of the only producers of the starchy tuber, producing 95 percent of the world’s arrowroot. Arrowroot flour is used in a variety of Caribbean dishes for its starchy texture and gluten-free characteristics, but these are not the only aspects of the root vegetable that make it profitable.
Once ground into flour, arrowroot can be mixed with chemicals like sodium chloride and citric acid to create a dressing for paper, making it extremely water resistant. Print photographers originally used this kind of paper for its water resistance, but the practice became outdated. Since then, arrowroot has made a revival due to the technology boom and the abundant use of printers. The root vegetable is now crucial in the manufacture of carbon-less paper.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Raymond Ryan, said the desire for this form of sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent could get higher with “100,000 pounds of [the] starch per year” acting as the potential. This fact, along with the “growing demand of gluten-free products,” means arrowroot and its starch have a good chance of elevating St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ growing popularity.
The Uplifting Effects of Bananas and Arrowroot
Both of these crops have the potential to pull St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the high standards that a global economy demands. However, arrowroot has many profitable niches that bananas have already overblown, indicating that the root vegetable’s potential is arguably greater for the island.
The fact that St. Vincent is the main supplier of arrowroot is an overall positive for the country. Formerly dependent on only bananas, this root offers a second chance at economic growth for sustainable agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
With this kind of agricultural diversity on the horizon, the Caribbean nation can compete on a global economic scale and turn small rural family farms into big agricultural businesses that financially impact their communities as much as their country.
– Toni Paz