Welcome back to the Small Countries Outpost and thanks for reading the past year! This will be our last post in the series, but please stay tuned to the Isle of Man Small Countries Program page and the Global Perspectives Office website for other content.
We want to wrap up the year by taking the big picture problem, lack of agricultural productivity on small islands, and breaking it down to the nuts and bolts. Here’s a rundown of common snags from our on-the-ground point of view:
- Costs of production. Tools, seeds, fertilizers, you name it. Everything costs more when you have to import it to a small island.
- Expertise. The dissemination of knowledge and best practices is limited in tiny communities.
- Technology. Small farmers often have fewer funds to put toward high-tech capital inputs.
- Resilience. Farms on small islands are more susceptible to any external negative event, from drought to disease, because they don’t have the size, wealth, or infrastructure to rebound from hiccups in production.
- Commitment. Many small island farmers have other sources of income and treat agriculture as a side project — not a career.
Many of the problems we see can be boiled down to the big five. These adverse factors make it difficult for small island farmers to survive, let alone thrive. Most of the growers we know personally are caught in a cycle of minimal production, due to some combination of these five reasons.
Take a few examples. Johnny only sells one vegetable every three months because he is focused on his job in the cruise ship port. Ezra stopped cultivating for a year because the drought was so bad he couldn’t afford to water his crops — and he hadn’t installed any drip lines in his field! Giselle has been forced to stop planting because fertilizers, pesticides, replacement tools, and transportation costs became too much to justify farming.
As you know from our Small Farm, Big Impact post, part of our reason for existence is to combat these issues. Whether it’s finding affordable substitutes for expensive imports, working with local farmers to incorporate new methods, approaching technology as back-to-basics (and cheap) improvements in efficiency, fomenting resilience based on critical thinking (not critical mass), or promoting agriculture as an honorable livelihood, it’s what we’re trying to do. It’s why we moved to St. Kitts. And we’re passionate about it.
Thanks for reading!
This series has been a fun journey for both of us. We have really enjoyed explaining the situation on St. Kitts, both anecdotally and analytically. We hope that we have opened your eyes to an issue that is as interesting as it is frustrating, and that it’s been as engaging to read as it was to write. We leave you with one request. Travel to a small island, and when you’re there, make time to visit a farm.