Up to climate change and harsh natural catastrophes

Up until today, the practice of sustainable agriculture
hasn’t been viewed as compatible with the world’s needs for large scale
production of food. However, the paradigm has started to turn, and more people
are viewing sustainable and organic agriculture as the right way.

A great disconnection between farmer needs, agro-industry
needs, government policy and research, has shown its consequences in the
agricultural sector of the USVI. The theory of GREM has been utilized
throughout this case study analysis, as it illustrates ways to deal with the
problem of disconnection in society. Furthermore, the theory of slow tourism
has been utilized as a tool in analyzing the agribusiness opportunities of the
tourism sector, as it offers new ways of more sustainable tourism practices. The
GREM theory and the slow tourism theory fits well together, as slow tourism * importance of tourism
identity adding a philosophical weight to the nature-tourism offerings,
boosting with mutual benefits for all parts of the society.

This case study illustrates that
the USVI are increasingly confronted with the classic challenges of being a
SIDS. The island’s remote location and vulnerability
to climate change and harsh natural catastrophes creates major challenges for
the Virgin Islanders. The two recent hurricanes Irma and Maria has
forced politicians and environmentalists
to put greater focus on climate change. The agricultural sector in
particular faces many challenges and people are more than ever before being
confronted with situations they are not equipped to handle. The
Inter-Governmental Panel of Climate change (IPCC) released in 2007 its 4th
assessment Report (SOVS), including an analysis predicting that SIDS will
experience severe climate change over the next four decades.

 

One of the greatest challenges faced by majority
of SIDS are linked to a narrow resource base. The high debt burden and
the dire economic situation of the USVI challenges the agricultural sector and
many other segments of the USVI society. Deficits in the government and large
amount of importation of food has resulted in food insecurity, and with strain
put on the balance of payment caused by the importation of food, prices will
rise continuously. The agricultural sector is therefore challenged by how to sustain a rate of growth that allows for a
balanced expansion of all parts of the economy, and how to ensure that the
pattern of agricultural growth is such to make a constructive strong and direct
impact both economically, socially and environmentally.

 

A lack
of policy direction, inadequate financial support for development and lack of
private sector involvement have resulted in development effort failing to make
an impact in keeping agricultural ventures successful. If the agricultural
sector is to develop in the USVI, as being a part of the solution to economic,
social and environmental issues, the government must recognize agriculture as a central part of their economy policies.

 

Furthermore, government policies should aim at bringing
small-scale farmers into the market in partnership with the private sector,
which should assume a larger role in guiding the agricultural sector, most
importantly investing in it. The governments should support and create a more
conducive policy environment for private sector growth, including pricing
policies (taxes and subsidies), land tenure reform (much
of the land is owned by the government making it a long and difficult procedure
for the locals to obtain loans), insurance coverage (a big challenge is for the farmers to obtain
insurance coverage to protect themselves should natural disasters occur) and
investment in marketing infrastructure. Furthermore, policies should be
directed to include clear land-use policies, including squatter regularization,
land tenure, which will enable the environment for agriculture development in
general hence attract greater investment opportunities. 

Domestic agriculture and
the production of higher value niche products should be seen as two central
components of balanced development in the USVI, where the volume and
availability of key local foods is guaranteed in meeting the challenges of food
and nutrition security. The natural resources located in the USVI may represent
a comparative advantage if they support agribusiness practices such as
slow-tourism and production of crucian value niche products. Increased
agricultural productivity focusing on demand and market opportunities will likely promote the inclusion of smallholder farmers
in new food markets.

“It is the dynamic efforts of community
leaders that are committed to agriculture as a vocation and are willing to risk
trying a new agriculture that holds promise for sustainable development and
rural economic vitality” (Lyson 2004 cited in Beaulieu
and Jeffrey 2014).

If mentioned
criteria’s are met, agricultural development can provide safe, affordable
and stable food, increased food and nutrition security, reducing the exposure to
global food market volatility.

 

In terms of social integration, the
analysis has shown that the economic activities require that a decent
livelihood for the farm workers are ensured, providing customers with real
values. The theory of GREM has emphasized the
importance of community building. According to the theory, linking together the
building of technical and social infrastructure will create new economic
opportunities.

Much of the
infrastructural development that additionally needs financing and human capital
investment is the sector of renewable energy sources, and alternative methods
of sustainable agriculture. Compromising environmental quality might put an end
to the lucrative tourist industry.

 

In
summary, despite the many economic, social and environmental challenges, the
agricultural sector in the USVI has accomplished much since the last 15 years,
and the agricultural paradigm has started to turn positively:

 

“I think that there’s a huge increase and
interest in local crops, and local fruit. I mean 100 percent interest (…) I
mean when we came here there was very little interest in buying local stuff, and
now people think it is very important… they are catching up. They are trying.

There are way more farmers, way more markets here now, so that is a big change”