“Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them” – Genesis 6:21

Last week I was invited to the International Congress on Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad. It was organised by the Faculty of Science & Agriculture at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus and was a part of the UWI’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations. My paper was on “A Generic Country Specific Agricultural Implementation Plan with Proposals for Quick Response Commercial Enterprise Funding”.

The first part of the paper was a synthesis of a comprehensive unpublished paper by the author, prepared for the IICA Trinidad & Tobago office, earlier this year, and which itself was inspired by previous work done by the author and other colleagues for the Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture. The second part of the paper, complementing the first, proposed how agricultural project implementation constraints could be removed as espoused by the CBET Shepherding Model™ and the innovative Seed & Venture capital fund initiative which is currently being rolled out in Barbados.

The West India Royal Commission was appointed in 1938 and carried out a comprehensive investigation of the social and economic condition of all the British territories in the Caribbean. The Commission was led by Lord Moyne, and is generally known as the Moyne Commission. The Moyne report, published in 1945, included suggestions for the intensification of agriculture through mixed farming, an increase in the sugar quota, and improved imperial preferences. Since then the diversification of agriculture in the Caribbean has been repeatedly and extensively studied by agency after agency, at the regional and national levels, and there has been no sustainable growth.

We must achieve sustainable growth in the agricultural sector as a contribution to the sustainable growth in each sovereign country. The only way to achieve this is to exploit the fresh and processed agricultural commodity opportunities and systematically develop sustainable businesses one after another.

In pursuing a national focus on developing a family of successful high performance commercial agricultural enterprises, within an agricultural policy framework embodying food security, import substitution, exotic exports, agro-business and tourism agriculture linkages, a coordinating mechanism is mandatory.

There are two separate and distinct actions, in considering the function and governance of the coordinating mechanism which is designed to coordinate the integrated agricultural trading system. First, there is the establishment of the National Agricultural Trading Trust and, secondly, there is the operational aspect of the Trust which will facilitate the smooth operation of the agricultural trading system from planning and production to merchandising and then shepherding the stakeholders towards sustainable success.

CBET, over the last seven years, has developed the CBET Shepherding Model™ (www.cbetmodel.org). This model speaks of business facilitation and partnership with the entrepreneur. It shepherds the entrepreneur on the journey from ‘business concept’ to ‘business success’ ensuring that the companions of Business Systems and Money are optimal at every step of the entrepreneur’s journey. The shepherding, mentoring or hand-holding element of the model is introduced as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of failure, hence the concept ‘Management as Collateral’.

There is no shortage of potential high performance enterprises in the agricultural sector. The business advisors and shepherds, if not available regionally, may be procured globally at a price until a regional training programme is effective. Timely access to money for the capitalisation of the enterprise is therefore the major constraint.

A national imperative is to grow the size of the national economic cake and increase the net growth rate in order to: induce sustainable economic growth; boost energy and food security; increase foreign exchange earnings/savings; generate employment; reduce poverty; and enhance returns to individuals, commercial banks, private sector businesses, trade unions and the Diaspora. This can be achieved through a national focus on developing a family of successful high performance enterprises, one enterprise after another. Agricultural enterprises may make a significant contribution towards this growth target.

The Trust will be not-for-profit in the sense that it will not have shareholders, hence no dividend payments, but its profit centres will be expected to generate a surplus. This surplus may be used by the Trust to service debt, repay the principal over a finite time to be agreed on in the Business Plan, further develop and expand the industry and otherwise enhance benefits to the agricultural stakeholders in the trading system.

Public and private sector Trustees would have the responsibility for the Trust. They would set policy, approve plans proposed by management and monitor the performance of management against these plans on a monthly basis. The composition of the Trustees, while reflecting partner organisation representation, should be balanced in the context of business disciplines.

The Trust is charged with the responsibility of a phased implementation approach, in an effort to reduce risks and increase the probability of success of the business opportunities presented by competitive distribution channels for agricultural trade, as recommended by the plan.

In order to facilitate this process, it is proposed that two enterprise development funds be established, in each sovereign state, the National Quick Response Revolving Seed Capital Fund and the National Quick Response Venture Capital Fund as a public/private partnership. The process has been initiated in Barbados. The paper was well received.