Up to climate change and harsh natural catastrophes

Up until today, the practice of sustainable agriculturehasn’t been viewed as compatible with the world’s needs for large scaleproduction of food. However, the paradigm has started to turn, and more peopleare viewing sustainable and organic agriculture as the right way. A great disconnection between farmer needs, agro-industryneeds, government policy and research, has shown its consequences in theagricultural sector of the USVI.

The theory of GREM has been utilizedthroughout this case study analysis, as it illustrates ways to deal with theproblem of disconnection in society. Furthermore, the theory of slow tourismhas been utilized as a tool in analyzing the agribusiness opportunities of thetourism sector, as it offers new ways of more sustainable tourism practices. TheGREM theory and the slow tourism theory fits well together, as slow tourism * importance of tourismidentity adding a philosophical weight to the nature-tourism offerings,boosting with mutual benefits for all parts of the society. This case study illustrates thatthe USVI are increasingly confronted with the classic challenges of being aSIDS. The island’s remote location and vulnerabilityto climate change and harsh natural catastrophes creates major challenges forthe Virgin Islanders. The two recent hurricanes Irma and Maria hasforced politicians and environmentaliststo put greater focus on climate change. The agricultural sector inparticular faces many challenges and people are more than ever before beingconfronted with situations they are not equipped to handle. TheInter-Governmental Panel of Climate change (IPCC) released in 2007 its 4thassessment Report (SOVS), including an analysis predicting that SIDS willexperience severe climate change over the next four decades.

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 One of the greatest challenges faced by majorityof SIDS are linked to a narrow resource base. The high debt burden andthe dire economic situation of the USVI challenges the agricultural sector andmany other segments of the USVI society. Deficits in the government and largeamount of importation of food has resulted in food insecurity, and with strainput on the balance of payment caused by the importation of food, prices willrise continuously.

The agricultural sector is therefore challenged by how to sustain a rate of growth that allows for abalanced expansion of all parts of the economy, and how to ensure that thepattern of agricultural growth is such to make a constructive strong and directimpact both economically, socially and environmentally.  A lackof policy direction, inadequate financial support for development and lack ofprivate sector involvement have resulted in development effort failing to makean impact in keeping agricultural ventures successful. If the agriculturalsector 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 bringingsmall-scale farmers into the market in partnership with the private sector,which should assume a larger role in guiding the agricultural sector, mostimportantly investing in it. The governments should support and create a moreconducive policy environment for private sector growth, including pricingpolicies (taxes and subsidies), land tenure reform (muchof the land is owned by the government making it a long and difficult procedurefor the locals to obtain loans), insurance coverage (a big challenge is for the farmers to obtaininsurance coverage to protect themselves should natural disasters occur) andinvestment in marketing infrastructure. Furthermore, policies should bedirected to include clear land-use policies, including squatter regularization,land tenure, which will enable the environment for agriculture development ingeneral hence attract greater investment opportunities.  Domestic agriculture andthe production of higher value niche products should be seen as two centralcomponents of balanced development in the USVI, where the volume andavailability of key local foods is guaranteed in meeting the challenges of foodand nutrition security. The natural resources located in the USVI may representa comparative advantage if they support agribusiness practices such asslow-tourism and production of crucian value niche products.

Increasedagricultural productivity focusing on demand and market opportunities will likely promote the inclusion of smallholder farmersin new food markets.”It is the dynamic efforts of communityleaders that are committed to agriculture as a vocation and are willing to risktrying a new agriculture that holds promise for sustainable development andrural economic vitality” (Lyson 2004 cited in Beaulieuand Jeffrey 2014). If mentionedcriteria’s are met, agricultural development can provide safe, affordableand stable food, increased food and nutrition security, reducing the exposure toglobal food market volatility.  In terms of social integration, theanalysis has shown that the economic activities require that a decentlivelihood for the farm workers are ensured, providing customers with realvalues.

The theory of GREM has emphasized theimportance of community building. According to the theory, linking together thebuilding of technical and social infrastructure will create new economicopportunities. Much of theinfrastructural development that additionally needs financing and human capitalinvestment is the sector of renewable energy sources, and alternative methodsof sustainable agriculture. Compromising environmental quality might put an endto the lucrative tourist industry.  Insummary, despite the many economic, social and environmental challenges, theagricultural 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 andinterest in local crops, and local fruit. I mean 100 percent interest (…) Imean when we came here there was very little interest in buying local stuff, andnow 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”