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Residents Protest, Opposition Calls for Review as Government Allocates Agricultural Lands to build homes

The Antigua and Barbuda government’s decision to reallocate agricultural lands to the housing ministry for a national housing project is facing scrutiny from opposition MPs and concerned residents. 

The government has agreed to transfer the testing and research grounds from the Ministry of Agriculture to expand its national housing project. But the grounds are seen as a vital part of efforts towards food security in Antigua and Barbuda and the region in some cases. 

Opposition MPs are therefore asking the government to reconsider its decision. “Let us go back to pack. Let us understand the importance of agriculture,” said Jamale Pringle, Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP). He said the research and test site is particularly important to achieve food security and reduce the country’s food import bill.

A lesson, he said, the government failed to learn during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Agriculture on a whole in Antigua & Barbuda is under serious attack from the Gaston Browne administration,” he said, adding that the government should halt the excavation work and return the lands that were assigned to the Dunbars Experiment and Cotton stations.

“He himself invested heavily in the agricultural sector. So, how is it that you are investing in it but at the same time taking up the land for housing,” he questioned.

He said it is unjustifiable for the government to take up more land for housing when they have been unable to account for millions of dollars already spent. 

Jamale Pringle, Leader of the Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP)

“We all know that housing is important but then you also have to give importance to agriculture. You speak about it, you talk about food safety and food sovereignty but then you do nothing about it,” remarked St George MP, Algernon Watt. Watt, a farmer himself, criticized the government’s actions, suggesting that they indicate a lack of commitment to the agricultural sector despite prior investments.

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The reallocation decision has not only raised concerns about food security but has also prompted questions about the fate of those employed in the affected areas.

St. Mary’s MP, Kelvin Simon who represents the agricultural belt of Antigua and who himself grew up with a family who farms is also not in support of the takeover. “We also have to look at the people who were employed there. What are they going to do, where are they going to work, what is the next move for them,” he asked.

“These things were done without proper consultation. Even the workers that work at Dunbars did even know that this was going to happen. 

On Friday morning, residents gathered in the Dunbars area to protest the reallocation of agricultural lands for a housing project. They came to work and all they saw was an excavator clearing the lands.  And I’m saying in 2024, we cannot continue to govern a nation like this.”

Residents Protest 

“Food Security is a must, we can’t eat house”; No land policy”; Save Dunbars and Christian Valley”; “Concrete for Dinner” read some of the placards hoisted in the air by about two dozen residents. 

One protestor became even more vocal about his displeasure as prime minister Gaston Browne passed by the protest driven by his security detail in a dark tinted car.

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