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By Aabigayle McIntosh
Officials within the Agriculture Ministry are currently holding talks with staff at the Dunbar’s station who are of the view that they will be displaced as the government moves ahead with plans to repurpose farmlands in the area for housing development.
One such meeting occurred sometime on Tuesday.
Senior Research Officer Maudvere Bradford said while she was not in attendance at the meeting established and non-established workers were present with their union representatives.
A follow-up meeting is likely to be held shortly, “To decide where the workers will go and a contingency plan will be implemented place to deal with the crops and other assets on the ground. I was not in the meeting but I plan to do a walkthrough tomorrow with my staff and the assistant”, Bradford said.
The workers are worried they will lose their jobs due to the Cabinet’s decision to repurpose some of the land.
Agriculture Minister, EP. Chet Greene has assured the workers that land-clearing developments will not negatively affect their employment prospects.
But beyond their jobs, numerous key root crops like sweet potatoes and cassava have been dug up in the clearing process.
“One of the fields that they are about to destroy, now we’re doing the assessment, we realize that field has one month more. Can they allow that? Yes, I think they would allow that. The experiment we put in now with CARDI to get that value of the data from the agroecological zone would take six months.
“Would they allow that? If we dialogue, we discuss, I guess they would. So as I said, there is no proper communication, and even if they communicate, you communicate with the PS, you communicate with the director, but you didn’t communicate with the heads of division and even, you know, the staff that are involved in the work on these stations,” she added.
Three weather stations will also have to be removed from the area with no plan as to where they will go.
One station belongs to the Agriculture Station and CARDI, while the other two are the property of the Met Office.
One of the stations, according to Dale Destin, director of the Meteorological Services, was placed there specifically to conduct an experiment by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, CIMH, and the Agriculture Ministry using international donor funds.
The results were to benefit other Caribbean countries in the region’s quest for climate resilience and food security.
Meanwhile, Bradford also maintains that she and her staff were not made aware of the cabinet’s decision to repurpose the land.
“I’ve noted the minister said the workers were notified and I categorically disassociate myself from that statement because the staff and myself were not made aware.”
The senior officer stated that the fault lies with her superiors who failed to communicate that decision.
She mentioned that, although they cannot alter a government policy, they wish they had been informed to adequately prepare for the removal of crops and to conclude any ongoing experiments.