Rural farmer, businessman resurrect 1985 agricultural proposal

A rural farmer and businessman who approached the World Bank in 1985 with a proposal to modernise and mechanise subsistence farming as a solution to the issue of hunger, have resurrected the model in the hope that the Jamaican government will buy into it.

   MONTEGO BAY, St James-- According to Thomas Pottinger, a farmer from Trelawny's Wakefield community and St James businessman, Henry Rhoden, Jamaica and other poor countries could work their way out of poverty and hunger using the technologies which they plan to employ on Rhoden's 700-acre farm in St James.

"According to the late American economist Robert Heilbroner, our failure to raise agricultural productivity has brought us to today's crisis point whereby we are literally starving and dangerously dependent on foreign food and loans. If they ever cut us off, the government of this country will be toppled violently," said Pottinger.

Pottinger, 68, who studied agriculture at the Jamaica school of Agriculture, has been trying--without success--to get successive administrations to buy into the model since 1985.

However, spurred by the current debt crisis which has balooned since the mid-eighties to a current $1.5 billion, he has resolved to engage Agriculture Minister Christopher Tufton with the idea.

"If we had solved the problem 25 years ago, we wouldn't be in this dilemma today. The issue of hunger is one that all societies have to address in order to secure their survival. In 1789, France had to face it in the form of a bloody revolution inspired by hungry, angry masses who had reached breaking point. Fed up with their inability to solve the problem they literally slaughtered them. We must address the problem now!" he told the Western Mirror.

At the heart of the problem, Pottinger said, is the mindset of the relevant authorities.

"The mindset is the critical factor that has blocked the modernisation of agriculture in underdeveloped countries like ours. Leaders have not been able to hurdle their culturally-induced false perceptions of reality, to implement the necessary measures to avert widespread hunger. These are points that we made to the late Congressman Jack Kemp, who was a member of the US Senate banking committee with oversight responsibility for the IMF and World Bank in the eighties. I said then that the programme would fail unless they addressed the problem," he said.

According to Pottinger he overcame the problem of mindset in the eighties when he implemented modern tecnology in lean pork production, more than a decade ahead of the American pork industry.

"An article in the Wall Street Journal of March 28, 1994, spoke about the transformation of the US$26-billion a year industry via this technology which I had utilised in ten years prior," he said.

"I remember it well," said Rhoden. "I had the collateral to attract the necessary funding, but for several reasons it never got off the ground," he said.

"I abandoned it because of issues with the bankers," Pottinger explained.

Ideally, Pottinger and Rhoden hope to secure funding to set up the farm which would churn out high volumes of yams, dasheens, cocoas and other Jamaican produce, via advanced agricultural technology at competitive prices.

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