LAND AND CON­FLICT

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Keith­lin Ca­roo, He­len’s Daugh­ters

Ask any Saint Lu­cian what is one of the ma­jor sources of con­tention in their fam­ily and nine times out of ten the an­swer would be land. Land con­flicts in Saint Lu­cia are as com­mon as Julie man­goes in May. One could blame the skewed colo­nial laws which are based on fam­ily in­her­i­tance. These “fam­ily-land” laws have pro­duced dif­fi­cul­ties to iden­tify “own­er­ship” and are the very rea­son for many of these bit­ter fam­ily feuds.

How­ever, when just over 20% of to­tal land in Saint Lu­cia (gen­er­ally 10 acres or less per farmer) is owned by the farm­ing class, and there are no other nat­u­ral re­sources on is­land, it is enough rea­son to un­der­stand why con­flicts are brought about by land own­er­ship and why they are the source of ruin for so many fam­i­lies; which begs me to ques­tion: If 20% of land is owned and used by farm­ers, who owns the re­main­der?

In 2007 it was recorded that about 40% of land was un­der state own­er­ship and classed as crown lands. This frac­tion of land could be the very key to trans­form­ing the agri­cul­tural land­scape and the end to many of the fu­tile con­flicts that per­sist when con­cern­ing land. How­ever, govern­ment poli­cies have had a ten­dency to pre­fer the use of crown lands for in­dus­trial, res­i­den­tial or touris­tic en­deav­ours.

A land bank could prove to be trans­for­ma­tive for Saint Lu­cia’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor, where the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers do not have their own prop­erty. A land bank is a wide area of land owned by a pub­lic or pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tion for fu­ture devel­op­ment or dis­posal. Land banks would al­low farm­ers to gain ac­cess to a par­cel of land for agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment and would re­sult in the bet­ter dis­tri­bu­tion and reg­u­la­tion of land devel­op­ment, while also gen­er­at­ing in­come for the farm­ers in­volved. In some in­stances in­ter­na­tional bodies, such as the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion, are us­ing land banks as a way for refugees to earn a liv­ing. It is a tried and trusted method that has been used in even the most de­vel­oped na­tions.

Just over a year ago a pi­lot project launched for two agri­cul­tural land banks in Babon­neau and Mabouya Val­ley, funded by the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The pi­lot was to last for a pe­riod of 18 months and the land banks were to pre­serve agri­cul­tural lands and serve farm­ers who did not have their own prop­erty. While no one from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture was avail­able to pro­vide an up­date of the re­sults of the pi­lot, I hope that this is the first of many of these ini­tia­tives. Why fight over 20% when farm­ers can share 40%? He­len’s Daugh­ters is a Saint Lu­cian non-profit with a spe­cial fo­cus on ru­ral women’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment through im­proved mar­ket ac­cess, adap­tive agri­cul­tural tech­niques, and ca­pac­i­ty­build­ing. It was formed in 2016 in a win­ning pro­posal for UN Women Em­power Women Cham­pion for Change Pro­gram. To learn more about the ini­tia­tive, you can visit: Face­book: he­lens­daugh­ters.slu, In­sta­gram: he­lens­daugh­ters.slu, Web­site: he­lens­daugh­ters.org

Own­er­ship of land, and claims to own­er­ship, have caused bit­ter fam­ily feuds.

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