“And look! The tears of the oppressed but they have no comforter…on the side of the oppressors there is power, but they (too) have no comforter”- Ecclesiastes 4:1
The book “Psychology – The Search for Understanding”, and I dare say many others, comprehensively describes Maslow’s hierarchy of five levels of basic needs as follows: Physiological Needs; Safety Needs; Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness; Needs for Esteem; and Needs for Self-Actualization. Beyond these needs, higher levels of need exist. These include needs for understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on.
The physiological needs are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person’s search for satisfaction. The air we breathe in Barbados is relatively clean but it comes at a cost, the cost of preservation of the environment. Barbados is a coral island with moderate to low annual rainfall but water should not be a problem if we: keep the gullies clean so that the natural flow to the aquifers is not impeded; damn the water that would normally run off to the sea; collect the water that falls on our roofs; and, if all this fails, we can desalinate, hopefully solar desalinate, the endless supply of sea water. If we exercise, maintain peace of mind and clothe ourselves well, we should maintain a relatively constant body temperature. The challenge therefore is to feed ourselves well and cost effectively to satisfy our physiological needs.
What are we going to do about the local agricultural production and processing industry? We have a natural resource of arable land, most of it lying fallow. What a waste! Would it be good business to have underutilised supply capacity in the manufacturing, hotel, financial or creative industries sectors? Why then in agriculture?
We have markets for local fresh and processed agricultural products: hotels, restaurants, institutions, supermarkets, hucksters, farmers markets, exotic exports and home port cruise lines. Why are these serviced largely with imported food products to the tune of BB$ 500 million per annum? We are then faced with the challenges of earning adequate levels of foreign reserves instead of doing something about saving it.
We have consumers who are exploited but have no comforter. We have frustrated small and large farmers and brokers who have no comforter. We have many uncoordinated public and private sector service organisations providing husbandry information, finance, incentives, land management, training, praedial larceny dialogue, agricultural inputs and technical assistance, but no comforter. We have public and private leadership power but no comforter.
We need a strong consumer protection agency to shepherd the consumer so as to realise the best bang for their food buck. We need to identify entrepreneurs (farmers) with “DNA of an Elephant” ideas to exploit the market potential and shepherding services and venture capital to comfort them. We need to provide a shepherding coordination service to avoid duplication and optimise return on investment. We need to challenge our leaders, both public and private, to recognise that they too need to have shepherds to comfort them so that they can motivate others.
Most consumers just take what they get irrespective of quality and price. This is only sustainable where they are no resource constraints. Even though there may not be a consumer protection agency with “bite”, given the recessionary times with which we are now faced, it is time that consumers employ more discriminatory practices and “shop smart”.
The obvious areas of farming focus should be systems to support and exploit black belly sheep, cotton and sugar cane where we could have a natural competitive advantage. The shepherding process will ensure that productivity and profitability will prevail.
The Bimventures project, a partnership between the CBET Shepherding Model and the Government and private sector of Barbados, currently has ten projects in its portfolio and can also partner with “DNA of an Elephant” projects in the agricultural sector.
The most important missing link in the agricultural sector is a “Master Control” shepherding service which coordinates the successful flow of agricultural commodities from supply to market at a profit. This will have immediate benefits if only in its ability to control waste.
As John Maxwell observes in his Leadership Bible: “While Ecclesiastes seems to continue the book’s theme of futility, it actually attempts to address the issue of motivation. Solomon says that he observes people in a variety of contexts, and nothing seems to satisfy them. As leaders, we must understand people’s motivational needs. What do they seek in life? Note Solomon’s observations about what motivates most men and women: comfort and fulfilment (affiliation), completion and triumph (achievement), consumption and greed (influence)”. Let us take Solomon’s observations to heart and identify the agricultural sector’s stakeholders’ higher needs then motivate men and women of influence to achieve the objectives which would allow the players in the agricultural sector to perform in harmony for the benefit of us all. Or, will we continue to “fiddle while Rome burns”? Who will “bell the cat”?