by JP Schwmon #SituationUpdates
Following the theft of 3 young pigs from the first litter born to Hance John’s Westfield Farm, the young farmer and Vincentian Cultural Ambassador is calling on local authorities to amend the necessary laws to protect farmers’ investments.
John is of the view that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, as National Security Minister and Saboto Caesar, as the Agriculture Minister, should both be in the vanguard of the amendment movement. He implored both policymakers to “find the head of the snake and dismantle it as such….
“If I, Hance John, as a youth in agriculture, as a young entrepreneur more so as a Cultural Ambassador, if I cannot voice my opinion and at least get the persons who are governing Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – as a Cultural Ambassador who was given that title and a diplomatic passport to at least influence and trigger a response to this social issue affecting farmers;
“If I am unable to do that, if they cannot listen to Hance John and give him one minute to hear the cry of farmers and as a young man involved in farming… my diplomatic passport and being a Cultural Ambassador has no value….
“The government is encouraging youth in agriculture and young entrepreneurs but there is no protection, there is no law that protects farmers’ business investment,” John lamented in an Asbert News Network exclusive.
The young businessman is aware that the theft he fell prey to is a pervasive concern in Evesham, the predominantly farm-based community where he both lives and farms as well as other farming communities across mainland St. Vincent.
He told ANN: “about a month ago Brenny Alexander – 10 of his sheep were stolen. Six that were pregnant as well were included in the mix and they were stolen. I tried my very best to help him out because he is a young farmer like myself and we’re trying to build this thing.”
John reflected on the number of times one of his brothers also fell victim to thieves in the area who made off with several of his animals overtime.
“My brother have goat and cattle and such out there and he has been touched so many times by these criminals in terms of his cattle being slaughtered and the meat being sold to well-known butchers and restaurants around town.
“He would have reported the matter numerous times to the police and the police would have went out and captured the guy. They prosecuted him, he did a short time in prison and he is back out.”
John’s brother fell victim to praedial larceny as recent as November last year, he shared.
Asked about plans to improve security at Westfield Farm, he noted:
“In terms of farm security we’re looking to have more secure pens. I was actually in the process of expanding and building the pigpen properly and putting things in place to mitigate that risk because I know once you’re involved in farming praedial larceny is involved.
“We can’t avoid it. We know it is something that we are battling as farmers and it is sad that we have to go through that but it is a part of the business, part of the risk getting involved in farming.
“Also a part from that the installation of cameras is something that is vital and that we’re looking into as well as lighting. All those stuff were already in the pipeline in terms of implementing them on the farm.
“But you know with every company that is starting up or that is growing we tend to take things in stride before you really jump to the next level.”
John hopes to finalize the work being done on the pigpen when he returns from his vacation. He is mindful that the loss could have been greater were it not for the full-bred pit bulls that stand guard over his other ruminants that are kept closer to home.
Asked whether or not he agreed that every registered farmer should be trained then issued with a licensed firearm, John responded:
“You could have a licensed firearm and don’t catch a thief but it is a means of protecting yourself and property. I agree with that to a great extent because these thieves come to steal, kill and to destroy so you never know what could happen if you meet them on the farm; they could attack you if you try to stop them in the process.
“But what I am saying is what if you don’t catch them [in the act] and the police get involved and have to prosecute them? What we are asking for is stiffer penalties in terms of the law!
“These guys are doing three months and they get fined a $500 – they pay that like nothing because they have the cadre of persons who an’ them are working together. They have the butchers and restaurants and they have the financial backing to help them out because they are working for these people.
“They have an organized crime group – not just the average guy who would go and steal – they have people behind them who understand, who are making monies from these activities and who are financing and supporting praedial larceny.”
John, also a Vincentian singer/songwriter, noted, “they have firearms as well when they coming to steal so they’re advanced now – they have rental vehicles which they use to transport animals.
“When I tell you this thing is properly organized. Farmers could share the same sentiments and they know who they are, the police know who they are. They know where they live, they know what they do, they know them by their names, they know all their families and they know where they hang out.
“They are accustomed to be in the prisons … but the justice system is undervaluing farming and the work of the police who would spend a lot of time, go out and get them, charge them and bring them before the magistrate but because of the law they pay ah small money – which can’t even equate to the damage done for example the value of a cow.
“Out in Langley Park they killed a pregnant cow and left the fetus on the ground. These people are so inhumane, so inconsiderate for people’s investment or property but they go to jail and they spend their 3 months or 6 months the most and they have a good time and when they come out they laugh at the police because the justice system does not provide the support to protect farmers and to help the police to do their job to the best of their ability.”
The Cultural Ambassador further highlighted his continued advocacy for the long delayed revision to the Agricultural Theft Prevention Act of 2007. He claimed, “it has some good clauses in it and with the right policing and enforcement and the amendments to some of the clause, it can actually rest down the stiffer penalties on these guys and it creates the framework that everyone has to follow in terms of the registration of farmers, butchers and restaurants and so forth when dealing with the buying and selling of these animals.
“There is serious health hazard being created when restaurants are buying the same stolen meats at discounted prices in buckets… that meat could be contaminated [it] has not been inspected by health inspectors and they selling that to the public, to consumers – you are creating a serious health problem.
“Butchers are buying animals they know to be stolen in fact all of them are working hand in hand. It’s one big network working together to cripple farmers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“To be honest and frank I don’t think [the politicians] are paying close attention to it, I don’t think the real issues are being discussed … especially for agriculture and praedial larceny. It goes to show that the persons who are in charge of doing so are not doing what they are supposed to do.
“It is baffling as to how the government is paying out all this income support to farmers, in the red and orange zones, and doing all the various projects – the livestock revolving program, tractor service, bringing animals and all these things – which is their investment into the agricultural sector but yet they are not protecting these same investments.
“Some farmers are not asking for you to come and install cameras and so on, we just want the stiffer penalties so that these guys could respect and somewhat deter perpetrators from carrying out these acts.”
Hance John also voiced his concern for the continuing incidents of theft being endured by fisher folk across the country.