September 25, 2007

IN ITS ZEAL TO REVERSE THE SUPPOSEDLY "anti-private enterprise" policies of the People's Revolutionary Government, AID practically ignored the 8,000 independent farmers who are the source of most of Grenada's export earnings and much of its food. Nor was AID concerned with the majority of rural people who are landless or very land-poor and work under conditions which have changed little since the era of slavery. From 1983-1987, AID spent over $1.7 million to "revitalize" agriculture, in a country whose total arable land of 35,000 acres is smaller than many private ranches and corporate farms in the United States. AID's primary concern was to "privatize" the Grenada Farms Corporation, a company set up by the PRO to manage 32 government farms and plantations. The Farms Corporation provided employment, training and social services to 990 workers. They enjoyed good wages, paid sick days, holidays, maternity leave, pension and death benefits, and a health care program. Acting on the erroneous assumption that most of the farms had been confiscated by the PRG from productive entrepreneurs who were eager to regain them, AID first tried to return the Farms Corporation estates to their previous owners. The Agency even set aside $400,000 for cash grants and free fertilizer to the "revested" owners. But the majority of these estates had been expropriated by the previous government of Sir Eric Gairy to expand his own holdings, reward his friends and punish his opponents. The PRG did acquire additional idle land, bringing the state-owned total to 7,734 acres by 1983, still only 20% of Grenada's farm land. According to AID Mission head Peter Orr, "We expected people to want their farms back, but there wasn't exactly an outpouring of interest in agriculture from the private sector." A 1987 AID evaluation reported that the handful of prior owners who did take legal title to their farms were interested in selling them back to the government. Finally, AID agreed to transfer the estates to selected small-scale farmers. The Agency was reluctant to take this course because, in the words of an AID official who was a senior member of the Grenada Mission at the time, "AID doesn't want to support anything right now that could be construed as land reform." Cooperative ownership or joint ventures by farm workers and the government were never considered, nor were the farmers consulted. The majority of the estates are still government-owned, held by a restructured company called the Grenada Model Farms Corporation. The new corporation was to survey and subdivide the land, then transfer individual plots to a limited number of farmers-about a fourth of those employed by the Farms Corporation before the U.S. invasion. No provision was made for the majority of ex-employees who would not receive land. In the reams of AID reports, they are only mentioned in connection with the possibility that they might resist firing and eviction, and as a source of labor to be hired by the successful "model farmers." By November 1987 AID's reluctant reform was stalled in the mud. Most of the $1.7 million had been absorbed by consultants' fees, equipment and fertilizer imported from the United States, feasibility studies, repeated land surveys and "training and technical assistance" to government personnel. Model Farms Corporation Manager Terrence Beddeau reported that all AID funds had been used, and that AID officials had told him no more would be forthcoming. Only 12 of the 23 model farms slated for divestment had been subdivided on paper, and plots had been assigned to farmers on only three of these. Individual farm plans for some of the 12 had been drawn up by consultants, but the farmers had yet to see them. None of the farmers had received titles and, according to Beddeau, no decision had been made as to whether the farmers would be allowed to purchase the land. The farmers, an AID/World Bank study noted, nevertheless "had carried out an immense amount of hand labor in land preparation."

Tags: Grenada, privatize, USAID, agribusiness

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