The sound utilization of scarce natural resources in Saint Lucia is a precondition for equitable development. The scarcity of natural resources presents a long-term constraint on the evolution of a diversified economy in a country of small territorial size heavily reliant on land and water resources and areas of scenic beauty to sustain agriculture and forestry, industry, tourism and urban development. Knowledge of resource availability must be combined with that regarding the interaction and linkages of resources to components of the natural and man-made environment. Such knowledge is mandatory to reduce risks of damaging small and fragile island environments vulnerable to adverse impacts of human activity. Agriculture is of increasing social importance in Saint Lucia and is an activity with a high degree of interaction with the natural environment. Consequently, it is essential that sound land use patterns and agricultural practices be established and, in many areas, soil conservation measures for sustained intensive farming be undertaken.
Saint Lucia has been unable to reach high levels of development and a diversified economic structure because of politico-economic circumstances. The uncertainties of the early periods of colonization brought about by the wars between France and England prevented the island from joining the sugar cane bonanza of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In fact, sugar cane did not supersede the early export crops of tobacco, cotton and ginger until a century after it became the mainstay of Barbados, Antigua and other colonies. After emancipation shortages of labour and protectionist colonial practices discouraged efficiency and prevented the industry from surviving the introduction of beetroot sugar in the European markets.
The collapse of the major export crop did not lead directly to its replacement in Saint Lucia. Alternative sources of employment for the population and the presence of a large community of small farmers concentrating on subsistence crops prevented the economic system from collapsing with the fall of the main export crop. In times of declining agricultural activity the population and economic livelihood were supported by port activities at Castries (the chief coaling station in the West Indies), employment generated by the construction of the United States army and navy bases at Vieux Fort and Gros Islet and the reconstruction of Castries after its destruction by a fire in 1948.
When these sources of employment disappeared in the 1950s, Saint Lucia turned increasingly to agriculture as a source of income, in particular to the banana industry, which grew very rapidly at that time. Banana exports began in the 1920s, declined in the 1930s because of Panama disease and ceased during the Second World War when there were no ships to carry the fruit. After the war a new start was made with disease-resistant bananas. The industry had its major expansion when the sugar industry collapsed in the early 1960s, releasing the large, fertile valleys for banana cultivation. In 1965, bananas formed nearly 90 percent of the country's total exports, making Saint Lucia the first Caribbean economy dependent on the monocultivation of bananas.
Development of the Agricultural Sector
Despite significant expansions of the manufacturing and tourism sectors, agriculture remains the most important economic sector in Saint Lucia. In 1978 the sector accounted for 27 percent of the Gross Domestic Product at market prices and for 50 percent of total exports, employing about 40 percent of the country's labour force. Recently, production has dropped, affecting both exports and foods tuffs. The major reasons for the decline are the antiquated land tenure system, the skewed distribution of land resources, the poorly organised marketing systems for domestic agriculture, the lack of adequate credit facilities, and the inadequately developed agricultural services.
In defining a solution to land tenure problems, well planned, long-term actions are required to replace the existing inefficient system of registration of rights to the land with a modern system of title registration and a cadastre, in addition to other legislative changes to protect tenants and to avoid excessive subdivision of lands. A set of more complex and long-term actions will be required to modify the highly concentrated pattern of land ownership that the country inherited and that is preventing the development of a more diversified, efficient and egalitarian agriculture. These actions need to be planned and implemented within the broad framework of other developmental actions, and consideration must be given to the pressing need to protect the environment and preserve renewable natural resources.
Objectives of the Report
Environmental management, the rational utilisation of the environment for egalitarian socioeconomic development, has been used as the general framework for defining planning actions aimed at removing land-related constraints to agricultural development. As a government activity, environmental management should reconcile short-term demands for the utilisation of natural resources with long-term conservation needs. This process inevitably introduces changes in the socioeconomic structure that ultimately defines natural resource utilisation in a country.
Within this general framework, the information from studies summarized in this report was collected with the following objectives in mind:
a) To make a preliminary prospectus of natural resource availability (particularly land and water) and of the conservation measures required for their rational utilisation in the development of agriculture.
b) To analyze information concerning the constraints affecting agricultural development in Saint Lucia. To study the role of the existing land tenure and the skewed distribution of land resources in the development of agriculture in the different types of rural settlements in the country.
c) To identify alternative approaches to solving land distribution problems in order to devise a policy on land redistribution and identify a pilot project on land registration to initiate the solution of the problems of land tenure.
Organization of the Report
The first three chapters of this report provide an overview of existing conditions in Saint Lucia related to basic characteristics of rural settlements (Chapter 1); land tenure distribution and patterns and the constraints to agricultural development they present (Chapter 2); and the effectiveness of legal mechanisms and the technical capacity and interaction of institutions (Chapter 3).
An analysis of constraints on and opportunities for land management, based upon observations of resettlement projects or activities of estate lands, appears in Chapter 4. The following three chapters are devoted to the presentation of alternative approaches to solving problems of land transformation (Chapter 5); definition of a short-term strategy for land redistribution (Chapter 6); and, recommendations for legal and institutional change (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 is an outline of a pilot project in Morne Panache and includes an implementation process for land transformation.
The extensive analyses of land and water resources which served as references in several sections of the main report are included as Annex A - Land Resources and Annex B - Water Resources. Annex C - Environmental Prospective, is a basis for those parts of the report in which recommendations are made concerning the rational utilization of natural resources as an integral part of agricultural development. Other annexes include, Annex D - Population and Land Distribution: Basic Information; Annex E - Characteristics of Landholding Patterns in Saint Lucia; Basic Information; and Annex F - List of technical reports prepared by OAS staff, Government of Saint Lucia, technicians and consultants. The recommendations found in the latter were the basis for the report which follows.