Diversification in this case (agricultural diversification) involves the realocation of a, or some of a farms resources, to a new product or products. The prime resource of that time being sugar and the new products being the wide variety of crops that were produced and re-introduced by peasants. Peasants are a class of people of a lower status, who depends on agricultural labour for subsistence. The peasant life could be placed and termed in different categories. According to Mintz 1961,” a peasant style of life was worked out by the people while they were still enslaved, these people were refered to as proto-peasants.
” he also makes mension of runaway pesantries or marrons, whome he described as, “those who formed communities outside colonial authority, build on subsistance farming in mountainous or interior forest regions”. This research will higlight how the peasants produced a wide variety of crops and the reintroduction of old ones. The purpose of this research is to show that the diversification of the caribbean economy was beecause of peasant initiative. had it not been for their efforts, the old sugar monopoly would have prevailed in the post emacipation period sustaining a system of bankruptcy and decay.
Woodville K Marshall wrote, “our pesantry starts in 1838 an comprises of ex-slaves who started small farms on the peripheries of plantation wherever they could find land – on abandon plantations and in the mountainous unknowns of various teritories. ” the first aim of the ex-slaves was to move away from the forced and unpaid labour. Many others preffered to stay in their own homes amongs friends and relatives with expectations of earning enough cash to purchase certain commodoties that they were unable to gain as slaves.
The feeling of complete freedom, of the plantation was only recodnise by free people if they could aquire there own lands. the simplest methods of getting propperty was to buy unoccupied land, either from land belonging to plantations which was not farmed by owner and crown lands. these crown lands was most popular in Trinidad, British Guyana and the interior of Jamaica. Land ownership also came about by squatting on unused land in the the remote interious of the large colonies.
People who purchase property outright were more fortunate than squatters, they gainned written proof of ownership and the land they bought was already cleared and close to markets. however outright purchase was the exception, not the rule. The exslaves were aslo able to aquire land in other intances through missionary help. These include popular missionaries such as James Phillips and William Nibb. In 1835 Phillips, bought 10 hectares in the mountains behind Jamaica Spanishtown, subdivided the land into small lots for sale on easy term to his congregation.
the new community named sligoville was the only settlement during apprenticeship. In july 1838 William Nibb shared the belief that planters would try to force extra work from their free labour by dramatically increasing rent on estate fig. 1 Newcastle, free village, in the Jamaica blue mountains. homes. William took up the mantel to help his congregation, he told them about a loan of ten thousand pounds that was granted to him by a friend from england. Knibb then said, “that sum should be apropriated to the purchase of land on which you may live if your present employer force you to quit the properties on which you now live.
” Williams predictions came through, the planters acted as he had foreseen and by 1839 he was constructing several ‘Free Villages’ for labourers who did not want to risk increases in rent on the plantations. The missionary society was quite abdoman in the development of the pesantry. Upon discusing the success of the pesantry one must give an account for the stages of development which includes the period of establishment (1839 – 1850-60). This was highlighted by the rapid land ownership, and the incresing number of peasants.
observers of the caribbean stated, “the great and universal object of the ex-slave was the aquisition of land, however limited in extent. ” Larger population, small size and a long established sugar industry left few oppertunities for land aqusition for peasants of island territories such as Barbados, St. Kitts and Antigua. Ex-slaves from these colonies had to think emigration. However, countries like Jamaica and the Windward Islands the sugar industry left underdeveloped montainous interiors . In Trinidad and Tobago and British Guyana a small population and young industry created many oppertunities for land aquisition.
Efforts of the exslaves were so successful in the named countries that emmancipation officials were reporting an almost daily increases in number of free holders. Another stage of development is the period of consilidation in which the peasantry continues its growth in numbers and most important, a marked shift by the peasants to export crop production. For example in Jamaica (only teritory with complete figures for small holdings) the number of holding between 5 and 49 acres increased from 13 189 in 1880 to 24 226 in 1902 to 31 038 in 1930.
However the most important phase of the development is what Eisner calls a ‘new pesantry’. Eisner national income estimate for Jamacia for 1850 and 1890 reveal a shift from maily provison production to mixed provisions that could be exported by peasants. a very good example of income was the value of the export crops (sugar, coffee, rum, pimento, ginger) in 1850 its estimated by Eisner at 1 089 300 pounds, of which small settlement contributed 133 500 pounds or just over 10%.
The variety of products continued to grow, and shares rising until the third period (1900 and beyond). At this stage the pesantry did not expand and evidence shows that it might have been contracting. Table 2 below shows an example of evidence of a decrease in peasant holdings in Jamaica. Initially, before the growth of the peasantry, ex-slaves decided to set up themselves as peasants because although slavery had ended the principle of forced labour, had only changed to contolled labour upon those who remain on the plantations.
Many who stayed in hopes of becoming wage owners, plans were shattered within a few years becasue of different reasons. Amongs these different reasons the system of tenancy which compelled the slaves to labour ‘steadily and continuosly’ on the estates in return for secure residence in the house and ground which he had occupied as a slave, insecurely of tenure, as well as relatively low wages and increases in rent reinforced many ex-slaves determination to seek new and better oppertunities away from the estates accross the caribbean.
a small population of the slaves were skilled which meant those who could’nt be masons, carpenters, barrel makers, wheel wrights and cart builders had to turn to the best known alternative, the ‘soil’. Only this time there hard labour would of been for their survival and not to fill their masters stock. The peasantry afforded them with the oppertunity to become wage earners. On the basis in which the pesantry was running, it was basically characterise, the pure plantation economy and society.
Although the peasants were producing a great quantity and variety of subsistence food and livestock, they strove to expand their boundaries by introducing new crops and or re-introducing old ones. Bananas, coffee, citrus, coconuts, cocoa, spices (ginger and pimento), and log wood in Jamaica; Cocoa, arrowroot, spices, bananas and log wood in Windwards, were the most popular crops introduced and or re-introduced for exports. the Leewards grew arowroot as a staple export crop. It has been recorded that St. Vincent alone sold 613 380 kilograms.
Small holders in Grenada exported coffee, cotton, cocoa, copra, honey and beeswax. In Trinidad squatters sold the timber they gainned from clearing crown lands for charcoal burning and export some for boat buiding and later exported coffee and cocoa. The guyanese was one of the few that was into the exportation of the rice crop. Most of the caribbean teritories were at some point in time producing certain crops for export and gathered profitable incomes. It is quit evident , that the pesantry has accumilated musch success.
With the help of the missionaries and the income gainned, peasants were able to initiate the convension of plantation socities. they adapted to building local self-generating communities and used funds that they had alocated from exports along with babtist missionaries ( missionary help was popular mainly in Jamaica) who were quite abdoman in helping the peasants organise free villages and the construction of school such as Cadrinton primary school in barbados, which was run by missionaries and churches for learning and worship.
They also clamoured for expansion of education facilities, communication and better maketing schemes and facilities. The peasants were able to start local co-operative movement (sou-sou, box hand and partner hand) which later develop banks some which may still be in exsistance today.
Courtney from Study Moose
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