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(Artocarpus altilis)

It was once despised; food fit only for the poor or for the animals. Today, research at UWI into its production, propagation and culinary possibilities has uncovered the nutritional value and potential economic benefits of the lowly breadfruit.




contents 06 VC’S VIEWPOINT Rekindling the Caribbean Development Revolution



by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles In his first official Pelican piece as new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary shares his vision for The UWI and the Caribbean.

12 CARIBBEAN ISSUE A University in Action

by Natasha Coker-Jones The story of an activist University on a mission to rally around Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika.

18 RESEARCH Sea Potential

by Joel Henry UWI scientists search out the opportunity in the sargassum threat.

24 Unravelling the Science Behind Ganja

by Zadie Neufville UWI Mona under the leadership of Professor Archibald McDonald advances in studying the properties and medicinal applications of Cannabis.

30 The Plant that Keeps Giving






by Shereen Ali Trinidad and Tobago Guardian’s series about the breadfruit’s potential as a powerhouse for sustainable, local agriculture makes The Pelican’s cover story.


An Innovator’s Mind

by Natasha Coker-Jones UWI student, Oswald Smith revolutionises Jamaica’s public transport making bus schedules and routes accessible to commuters on computers, tablets and smartphones.


Research for a Better Region

by Joel Henry Recently appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research articulates his approach to active engagement and the alignment between UWI’s research and societal needs.





US-Cuba Relations

by Dr Jacqueline Laguardia Martinez UWI International Relations lecturer discusses the future of the Caribbean within the context of the reviewed relationship between US and Cuba.


No More Business As Usual

by Alake Pilgrim The Commonwealth’s Deputy Secretary General, Deodath Maharaj goes beyond polite conversation about Caribbean development during an interview with Alake Pilgrim.


30 Days in the Heart of Tokyo

by Jeanette Awai Eight UWI students recount their experiences as part of a one-month exchange programme in Japan.

66 Vice-Chancellor Beckles’ Inaugural Address

On May 30, 2015, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles was installed as the 8th Vice Chancellor of The UWI. Read his full installation speech.



EDITOR & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Dawn-Marie De Four-Gill PRODUCTION EDITOR Rhonda Jaipaul-O’Garro EDITORIAL TEAM Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind, Janet Caroo, Celia Davidson-Francis, Dawn-Marie De Four-Gill, Carroll Edwards, Marcia Erskine, Allison Fung, Rhonda Jaipaul-O’Garro, Chelston Lovell, Shyvonne Williams CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Shereen Ali, Jeanette Awai, Natasha Coker-Jones, Joel Henry, Sir Hilary Beckles, Jacqueline Laguardia Martinez Zadie Neufville, Alake Pilgrim PHOTOGRAPHY Nigel Browne, Bryan Studios, Ronnie Carrington, Cartography Associates, Adrian Cashman, Atiba Cudjoe, Peter Ferguson, Khano Gordon, Gary Harris, Aneel Karim, Noel Lindquist, Zadie Neufville, ProPhoto Studio, Terry Sampson, Sophia University, The Commonwealth Secretariat, Windies/West Indies Cricket Board. ON THE COVER

Bringing Breadfruit to the Table It was once hog food; too bland for the palates of the slaves brought from West Africa. It was only after Emancipation that breadfruit found a place at the table of free peasants – and then mainly those from rural areas. Today, not only has research at The UWI uncovered the nutritional value and health benefits of the breadfruit, but also its potential as a powerhouse for sustainable local agriculture. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –





Rekindling the

Caribbean Development Revolution


ir Arthur Lewis, first Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, was known by all, at home and abroad, for his intellectual refusal to accept the inevitability of structural, endemic poverty within the Caribbean world, and beyond.



Rekindling the Caribbean Development Revolution His impatience with those who thought and acted as if poverty in developing countries could not be uprooted was also well known. In his role as Vice-Chancellor he spoke and acted strategically upon the value perspective that demanded a steadfast determination to imagine and implement development agendas. In so doing he committed The UWI, in all its facets and manifestations, to a regional economic growth and development agenda to which it has remained attached. Like all fine universities, The UWI was not established nor sustained to serve itself, but to serve the Caribbean nation in its fullness as a spatially unified and beautifully diversified civilisation. It was this perspective that drove Sir Arthur to advocate for and implement the tri-campus university, thus exposing the wider region to the full reach of its role in promoting economic growth and social development. As an economic theorist he understood that development required sustained

Published financial and fiscal indicators, from both internal and external sources, are suggesting that the Caribbean economy will remain beneath the watermark of global growth in the short to medium term. 8 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

economic growth, yet his focus was always on the broader, practical processes that confronted poverty as an economic condition and social culture. Published financial and fiscal indicators, from both internal and external sources, are suggesting that the Caribbean economy will remain beneath the watermark of global growth in the short to medium term. The concept of a “negative outlook” so commonly used by assessing agencies in reference to the region’s prospects has taken on special connotations in the Caribbean context. They speak to a world in which our youth are expected to mature as primary stakeholders of societal poverty. This youth generation is expected to inherit and inhabit economies that are in decline, and are willing to declare doom and desperation. They are also expected to absorb the notion that the region’s development agenda has stalled. The mandate of The UWI in such a circumstance is to use its resources and reasoning in order to reconnect the impatience of Lewis to the imperative of the “now”, which is to rekindle the Caribbean development revolution. That is, to combine the passions pouring out from the historical perspective with the urgency of economic engagement to create a new sense of popular purpose as an inter-generational agenda. This is indeed a fine time for The UWI to step in and step up. The regional economy needs to be democratised. Traditional elites in each island

have directed and dominated economic life from the colonial period to the nationalist era. They have taken the region forward, but as a model or strategy for entrepreneurial mobilisation, wealth expansion and distribution, they constitute an obsolete paradigm. Traditional and emerging entrepreneurial groups must combine their efforts within new institutional arrangements to refashion the fiscal space and find fuel for movement. Everywhere in the world that has achieved sustained growth in recent decades the power of small and medium sized business has been paramount. These enterprises are driven by non-traditional corporate groups. As small investors and innovators their transformational power has been extraordinary. In this regard, the Caribbean is in urgent need of a 21st century economic democracy movement in much the same way that it demanded political democracy in the early decades of the 20th century. Within this expanded space a new and creative cohort of corporate leaders can enter and energise the base of the regional economy. This is the space in which university graduates are expected to enter and transition from the classroom to corporate culture, driving diversification as a common enterprise experience. In this way we can test the integrity of the judgement that for our region the short to medium term outlook on economic activity is negative. The University’s time, then, is in this “now”. It is difficult to image an enhancement of economic competitiveness without the structural mobilisation of applied research to industry innovation. Only the value added of new and organised knowledge, that is, applied research, can drive the innovation

The Caribbean is in urgent need of a 21st century economic democracy movement in much the same way that it demanded political democracy in the early decades of the 20th century.



Rekindling the Caribbean Development Revolution revolution expected to diversify the economy and enhance competitiveness. The UWI is well positioned to take command of this moment, and by an effective alignment of academia and industry foster a framework for the new economy. It is precisely these and such like expressions of the “activist university” that are required to rekindle the development revolution in the region. A critical component, however, is a corresponding consciousness that is required to forge the necessary actions. Such a mentality must originate in an historical reading of reality which says that this is “wartime” in the Caribbean, and only robust, coherent regional action can then win peace. The UWI has already sent a strong message of its intent to play its part. We have declared that activism on development issues will be its mantra. The five-year

strategic plan being conceptualised is framed around what will be called the “Triple A” agenda: Alertness to global opportunities, access to more affordable, flexible, and diverse education and training, and alignment of research to industry innovation and entrepreneurship. Alertness, alignment, and access will connect the academy to the impatience displayed by Sir Arthur, and affirm its ongoing commitment to an irretrievable sense of relevance. It’s within this context that we established two months ago The UWI-China Institute for Information Technology. This is the first occasion in our history that The UWI has partnered with another university in order to establish a third university which will be jointly owned and managed. It will offer this year a BSc degree in Software Technology with an applications-based pedagogy.

The UWI has taken an historic step with the GIST (Global Institute of Soft­ware Technology) in Suzhou, China to create a UWI-China Institute of Information Technology (UWICIIT) which will see its first cohort of students reading towards a BSc degree in soft­ware technology from September 2016.

(l-r): Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI); the Honourable Ronald Thwaites, Jamaica’s former Minister of Education; Dr Wang Bin Tai, Executive Chairman of the Global Institute of Software Technology, Suzhou, China; and Professor Archibald McDonald, Principal, UWI Mona Campus, following the press conference at The UWI Regional Headquarters to announce the establishment of the UWI-China Institute of Information Technology.


Caribbean students will spend two years at The UWI and two years in China where they will be inducted into the Suzhou industrial park. There they will receive industry experience under the auspices of our partner, The Global Institute for Software Technology. This academic and science training innovation is meant to provide Caribbean students with a unique, globally pioneering access to the latest post-PC internet communications software and technologies, and to create the Caribbean skills set necessary to attract industries into establishing data and information management businesses. This is just the beginning of the roll out of a broad agenda to energise and transform The UWI into an activist academy focused on rekindling the regional development revolution. It is significant that Sir Arthur in 1938 made the critical point, that somehow has gone unnoticed, that in addition to the priority of industrial modernisation in the region, the matter of “two hundred years of unpaid slave labour is yet to be addressed”. Here, then, is to be visualised the crossroad of Caribbean history and global development economics that are oftentimes avoided. It is a discursive space, however, to be confronted. Without committing to this journey it will be impossible for the region to conceptualise a people’s economy that is critical to our emergence from this recessionary circumstance. It’s the role of The UWI to theorise this intersection and indicate the most sustainable path to prosperity. It is here that we can begin to rekindle the spirit of Caribbean freedom, self-reliance, and sovereignty that are prerequisites for economic growth and social development.

This is just the beginning of the roll out of a broad agenda to energise and transform The UWI into an activist academy focused on rekindling the regional development revolution.


Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies




University in Action by Natasha Coker-Jones

Last August, in the wake of Tropical Storm Erika, the university made an early move when newly installed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, contacted the Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, to offer The UWI’s sympathy for the lives lost, extensive damage, and to pledge its support in getting the recovery process underway.


ominica’s wounds are still fresh from Tropical Storm Erika—as they were for the people of Grenada who were practically brought to their knees in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, a category three hurricane. Before that, it was the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who grappled with floods, landslides, and loss of lives after a low-level trough system hit the island in December 2013. The list goes back pretty far, and The UWI has been there to support when it mattered the most. Lessons from Ivan “The UWI’s more structured response to disasters started with Ivan,” Professor Wayne Hunte said of the kind of support that The UWI is now able to offer the region. According to a World Bank report, Hurricane Ivan’s financial cost to Grenada was estimated at US$900 million—more than twice that country’s GDP. History now informs us that Ivan was the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean region in a decade. The threat alone triggered responses which saw the closure of schools and government buildings in Barbados, and evacuations to emergency shelters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Grenada also evacuated 1,000 people to shelters. It was all they could do since the northern portion of the eye passed over the island causing damage to more than 80 percent of their buildings. Hurricane Ivan was blamed for at least 15 deaths on that island. Professor Hunte, who was tasked with coordinating The UWI’s response to the crisis in Dominica, explained that Ivan marked the beginning of a more organised response by the university. “It created a UWI disaster management network,” Professor Hunte told The Pelican. He recalled that when the clarion call went out to The UWI campuses for people who wanted to be part of the relief effort after Ivan, over 60 people signed up. The expertise of the volunteers ranged from geotechnical engineering, to psychosocial counselling and environmental management. Since Ivan, The UWI has set up a more institutional response. The Disaster Risk Reduction Centre in Jamaica is a testament to that response. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


University in Action Last August, in the wake of Tropical Storm Erika, the university made the first move when newly installed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, contacted the Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, to offer The UWI’s sympathy for the lives lost, extensive damage, and to pledge its support in getting the recovery process underway. Dominica wasted no time in accepting the university’s offer of support. The Vice-Chancellor authorised the dispatch of a UWI Scoping Mission/ Task Force with the purpose of providing immediate technical services that would augment the rapid damage and loss assessment exercise already in train. A Scoping Mission Mobilised Professor Hunte, who is currently Director of the Office of Global Affairs at The UWI, was asked to pull a team together based on the perceived needs of the island after the disaster. The professor teamed up with Dr. Barbara Carby, Director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, and together they handpicked members of the Scoping Mission. The Scoping Mission was funded from the Global Affairs budget. The UWI Scoping Mission to Dominica included staff members with expertise in engineering, water resources, and environmental management. The onthe-ground team was led by Mr. Jeremy Collymore,


Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Sustainable Development. Other members of the team included Dr. Richard Clarke, Senior Lecturer, Civil Engineering, and Dr. Adrian Cashman, Director of CERMES (The Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies) and a specialist in water resources management. The three-member team toured Dominica from September 6 to 12. To say they were needed, would be an understatement. On August 24, 2015, Tropical Storm Erika, the fifth storm of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season, passed 90 miles to the north of Dominica. Three days later on August 27, the Canefield Airport, near the capital Roseau, recorded 12.64 inches of rain in a twelvehour period leading to severe flooding, landslides, and extensive damage. Twenty persons were confirmed dead. And so in a matter of days, the island that seduced U.S. filmmakers into selecting it as the location for the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, was virtually unrecognisable. Meeting with the Prime Minister But The UWI Scoping Mission was determined to do something about that. Just getting to the island proved to be a logistical challenge though as Dominica’s airports were closed. Team members had to take the more circuitous route of flying to neighbouring islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Lucia and then

catching a ferry across to Dominica. When members of The UWI Mission finally arrived in Dominica, their first meeting was with Prime Minister Skerrit and his advisory team. The prime minister expressed strong appreciation of The UWI’s offer of support and indicated that the Government of Dominica would need the university’s input in the recovery and reconstruction, especially in an advisory role. Assessment of Schools The Government of Dominica also asked the Scoping Mission to help with the engineering assessment of seven schools to ensure the safety of students and staff—both of whom were due to return to school on September 14. The team also met with other agencies like the Dominica Water and Sewage Company Limited (DOWASCO) as well as technocrats from state agencies. The UWI combined its assessment efforts with other players on the ground which included the World Bank, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Professor Wayne Hunte



University in Action Displaced Communities In the aftermath of Erika, one thing became clear: residents in high-risk displaced communities should debunk the romantic notion of going home. There were simply too many obstacles. Firstly there were those that everyone faced: negotiating the damaged road network, new waste disposal challenges, damaged sewer lines— especially those that were attached to bridges. Add to that the imperative of protecting oneself from the very real public health threats of gastroenteritis or viruses arising from the potential spike in the mosquito population. Still, people expected to move back to their communities once the danger was no longer imminent. But there was enough data to show that these communities were prone to flooding and landslides. If residents in these communities were to go home, it was only a matter of time before they were back to square one. Eventually, people began to warm to the idea that it was time to ruminate over more sustainable alternatives. The Resettlement Solution Resettlement was one such alternative. The Government of Dominica has asked The UWI to help with the ranking of ten potential new sites to accommodate displaced communities. The university was also asked to conduct hazard and vulnerability

assessments which would inform the process of selecting suitable sites. But there are other considerations involved in ranking these sites including water supply, sewage disposal, and the environmental impacts of clearing forests. Who Will Fund It Nobody doubted that The UWI had the expertise. But the university faced a conundrum that it couldn’t deny. “That’s a multidisciplinary team that has to be there for an extended period, but the university cannot fund that. We had to look for funds to meet the cost,” Professor Hunte said of The UWI’s position. Meanwhile the requests continued to roll in. A month after the Scoping Mission had visited the island, the Government of Dominica asked The UWI to send psychosocial counsellors to help them with displacement issues. Dr. Letnie Rock, Dr. Debra Joseph, and Ms. Ayodele Harper responded to that call. The university’s response to the funding conundrum was to leverage its influence and expertise in the region to find donor funding that would meet its costs. To this end, The UWI partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and together the UNDP and The UWI identified funding that would allow the university to meet the cost of responding to Dominica’s resettlement needs.



Funding from Japan The funding of US$240,000 came from the JapanCaribbean Climate Change Partnership. The UWI is now prepping a full team of engineers and environmental scientists to make its first site assessment visit in March 2016. Mr. Raymond Charles from the Faculty of Engineering will be coordinating the engineering side, and Professor Hunte will coordinate the environmental response. Other members of the new team include Dr. Adrian Cashman from the Scoping Mission; Professor Sean Carrington, a vegetation specialist; Professor Julia Horrocks, a biodiversity conservationist; Dr. Vincent Cooper, a hydrology specialist; Dr. Derek Gay, a geotechnical expert; Dr. Bheshem Ramlal, a geographic information system specialist; and Dr. Richard Clarke also from the Scoping Mission. While the first mission focused its reports on capturing the extent of the damage and the skills gap for moving forward, the new mission will coalesce its efforts around how the people of Dominica can minimise future damage triggered by natural processes of the earth. If The UWI gets it right, the next time a natural disaster strikes the island, Dominicans are likely to have a lower probability of experiencing the kind of damage they’ve suffered this time. It’s the kind of tangible gains that Hunte says he feels strongly that The UWI can offer to countries and governments of the region. “The UWI must of course continue to provide long term education and training, and it must continue with its commitment to do research of relevance to national and regional development. But we must also be prepared to respond immediately to crises when the countries that we serve have a need.” It’s a clear case of to whom much is given, much is expected. And according to Hunte, The UWI cannot, and will not, avoid this responsibility, particularly since it has the largest pool of technical capacity in the Englishspeaking Caribbean. Professor Hunte suspects that regional governments prefer to utilise The UWI’s technical resources when they can. “Our governments typically prefer to be able to turn to the university as a regional entity than to have to rely exclusively on international agencies. They feel a greater sense of pride if the university steps up to the plate.”

No true maroon-blooded West Indies fan can pass on a good game of cricket. But throw in the fact that it was for charity, and the guarantee of seeing your favourite West Indian celebrity in action, and you’ve just described a deliriously exciting match. Such was the mood on September 27, 2015—a stark contrast to the anxious faces across the region exactly one month before—when the island of Dominica was struck by Hurricane Erika. It was a major setback for a territory which has earned its moniker as the nature island of the Caribbean, with its 365 rivers, enchanting rain forests, and famous Morne Trois Pitons. Losses have been estimated in the millions. In a show of support, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) teamed up to urge the people of the region to “Rally Round Dominica”. It was felt that a celebrity T20 showdown between the ViceChancellor’s Celebrity XI and the WICB President’s Celebrity XI was the perfect way for the region to strike back. The goal was to raise US$1 million for the cause from corporate donations, ticket sales, a live telethon, and a text donation drive. Many fans would readily agree that to see former Manchester United striker, Dwight York, and Olympic silver medallist, Yohan Blake, share a field with cricket legends Brian Lara and Sir Curtly Ambrose, was worth every penny. And words can hardly describe the unadulterated pain of watching Chanderpaul being dropped twice in one over of clever bowling by Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. At the end of the day, it wasn’t terribly important that Lara made 68 runs for The UWI side. Or that, despite his efforts, The UWI went under. The real victor was the resilient West Indian spirit— the one that never fails to summon us to rally!








Scientists seek opportunity in sargassum threat by Joel Henry



Sea Potential – Scientists seek opportunity in sargassum threat


n 2011, a ‘murky tide’ invaded the Caribbean from the southeast. It returned again in 2014, covering coastlines in a thick brown brine of seaweed— sargassum. The immediate and natural reaction was region-wide panic as the sargassum began to negatively affect vital industries such as fishing and tourism. Although those concerns still exist, and efforts continue around the region to develop best practices for the removal of tonnes of sargassum stranded along beaches critical for tourism and fishing livelihoods, many folk have come to see sargassum not just as a threat but an enormous opportunity. Seaweed harvesting globally is big business, an estimated US$6 billion business, primarily as food but also as an agent in the production of other goods such as fertilisers and animal feeds.



With its sudden sargassum wealth, the Caribbean may have the makings of a much-needed new industry, particularly in these times of low economic growth, high unemployment and persistent challenges in achieving economic diversification. Recognising these opportunities, several members of The UWI community across disciplines have taken the lead and begun to explore sargassum and what it could mean for the region. On August 17 of last year The UWI Cave Hill Campus hosted a one-day Sargassum Symposium at the 3Ws Pavilion in Barbados. The symposium shared presentations from a diverse group of specialists, each approaching the sargassum phenomenon from different perspectives—economic, biological and environmental

among others. Although words like “threat” and “danger” continue to be used alongside sargassum in many conversations, there were a surprising number of uses of words like “opportunity” at the event. “Culture blinds you from seeing abundant resources and opportunities,” said entrepreneur and UWI graduate student Mark Hill at the symposium. In his presentation— “Building a Caribbean Seaweed Industry”—he spoke of how countries such as China were cleaning seaweed off the beaches within a few days and putting it to largescale commercial use. Founder of Innogen (a sustainable energy company) and BioGen (a company set up specifically to collect and utilise seaweed), Mr. Hill has become a major advocate for sargassum processing. And he is not the only one.

“Initially, sargassum was something I was speaking to other economists about in terms of its impact on tourism,” says Professor Winston Moore, Head of the Department of Economics at The UWI Cave Hill Campus. He says that when he began to look more closely at the topic following a request from Pro ViceChancellor and Campus Principal, Professor Eudine Barriteau to become part of a multi-disciplinary campus team focused on the phenomenon his views changed. “I saw there was a close link with one of my main areas of research, which is the green economy,” Professor Moore explains. His presentation was on “Harnessing Sargassum Seaweed: a Green Economy Opportunity”.



Sea Potential – Scientists seek opportunity in sargassum threat So not only does sargassum perhaps have the potential to form the basis of new industries, it could perhaps contribute to sustainable development? This seems quite hopeful for what at present is seen by many as an unsightly menace, fouling beaches and hurting coastal activities. Can sargassum really be a miracle in disguise? Wide Sargassum Sea There are estimated to be over 250 species of sargassum waving slowly in shallow seas throughout the world. But there are two species of the brown moss that never attach to the sea floor. These free floaters form thick mats of seaweed most common in the North Atlantic in an area known as the Sargasso Sea. The sargassum has been there for hundreds of years. Columbus’s crew was terrified that they would be stuck in the seaweed on one of their return journeys from the New World. Out in the open ocean the sargassum is a haven for life, an upside down “reef ” supporting a huge biodiversity. The Sargasso Sea is so important to the ecosystem of the North Atlantic that environmental groups are dedicated to its protection. The problem arises however, when sargassum makes its way to coastlines—and it has been doing so for many years. “Mass landings of sargassum are nothing new,” says Professor Hazel Oxenford of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at The UWI Cave Hill Campus. Professor Oxenford has given presentations on the causes of the current phenomenon at both the Sargassum Symposium and symposium hosted by the Association of African and Caribbean States (ACS) and the Caribbean Sea Commission (CSC) in November 2015 in Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with senior research scientist Jim Franks of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Franks has been studying sargassum for some time and has developed a theory on the origins of the seaweed bloom that began in 2011. Sargassum moss usually travels south from the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic, entering the Caribbean through the Anegada Passage, the Mona Passage, the Windward Passage and the Florida Straits, where it then gets swept westward back into the Gulf of Mexico. From all the evidence however, it seems the sargassum invasion that is currently affecting the wider Caribbean Sea and coastlines of West Africa is coming from somewhere else. 22 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

“This sargassum is coming into the region from the southeast,” Professor Oxenford says, “it is originating from a new source along the equator.” Using a mix of satellite technologies and shipboard observations to detect presence of floating sargassum masses, water, temperature and sea surface currents, scientists believe they have pinpointed the location of this new sargassum bloom, an enormous area of sea between South America and Africa known as the North Equatorial Re-circulation Region (NERR). The exact causes of the bloom are yet to be determined although evidence points to significant oscillations in the climate and ocean circulation patterns and in the temperature of surface waters (meaning that global warming could be a significant contributing factor). The Seaweed Industry Figures on the global seaweed processing industry estimate that as much as 12 million tonnes are used per year. The vast majority of earnings come from food consumption in Asian and Pacific countries like China, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where certain types of seaweeds are considered a delicacy. China and Japan are also major processors of seaweed. However, food is far from the only potential use of sargassum. Seaweed can be used as a source of alginate—a thickening agent widely used in the production of a host of items—animal feed, food, textiles, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and even welding rods. Its use in green industries includes bioabsorption. Seaweed can absorb contaminants like heavy metals from polluted effluents in a less expensive but more effective manner than current technologies. It also has potential as an agricultural resource that can improve soil health and plant growth, assist with resistance to environmental stress and reduce the costs of agricultural production. Sargassum has already been used in pilot studies by UWI student Mark Hill as the raw material for green products such as soaps and chipboard, and has been the subject of innovative research by students of Dr. Srinivasa Popuri in the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences to make soap, body washes and gels. Seaweed may also be a compelling biofuel alternative as an ethanol producer. Biofuel is commonly produced from corn and sugar, food crops, which drives up the prices of these commodities. It also uses up fresh water. Seaweed does not have these drawbacks. It should be noted that when discussing these many products that can come from sargassum, the

It is likely that

sargassum may be the new normal for the region


key word is “potential”. To spawn a thriving industry from what is at present a coastal threat, more research, technology and investment is required. Speaking at the Sargassum Symposium, The UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said that it would require US$120 million and more than 100,000 workers to simply clean the mats from Caribbean coastlines. There is also the risk of basing an industry on a phenomenon that we do not fully understand. What if enormous investments are made into materials and manpower for the clean-up, transport and processing of sargassum and the supply stops? “We need both long term and short term predictive research to properly inform potential industry about what is happening with sargassum,” Professor Oxenford says. “Will there be a sufficient supply of sargassum over time to justify investment? We also need to be able to predict what will happen in a month or a week so

that the necessary resources to collect the sargassum are deployed efficiently.” However, Professor Oxenford believes it is likely that sargassum may be the new normal for the region: “I suspect that from now on we will have a seasonal sargassum event that will be highly variable from year to year in the amount of sargassum that is delivered to the Caribbean and it will depend on a number of ocean and climate factors working together.” For industries that rely on the natural beauty of our coastlines, such as tourism, the prospect of an annual sargassum season is daunting. But adaptability to new circumstances, no matter how challenging, has always been key to the progress and survival of societies. It is still early days for The UWI’s research into this phenomenon but the work has begun and it is possible that one day in the near future sargassum may be more of a benefit than a burden to the Caribbean.




Unravelling the Science behind


by Zadie Neufville

Cannabis also called Solomon’s Weed, Ganja or Marijuana, is hailed as God’s gift to medicine but only a handful of institutions including The UWI Mona Campus are studying the properties and possible medicinal applications. 24 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

Unraveling the Science Behind Ganja


he University of the West Indies has revived the ganja research programme it began in the 1970s as it prepares to launch Jamaica as a global “powerhouse” for cannabis research; as famous for its products and services as it already is for reggae and the good ‘ol sensi weed’. The UWI Mona Campus in Kingston is one of the few places in the world where marijuana research can take place from plant breeding, through to clinical trials. The country’s international reputation—the ganja culture, music and athletic success—has brought many to The UWI in search of research collaborations. There is new energy and excitement as researchers leverage over four decades of experience in cannabis research, even as they await the completion of regulations that will guide recent amendments to the Dangerous Drug Act. “We have the knowledge and we have the expertise to make Jamaica and the Mona Campus a major centre, the leading authority and we are positioned to use our Jamaica brand to drive the programme,” Principal of The UWI Mona Campus, Professor Archibald McDonald, said in an interview with The Pelican. Best known for the euphoric effect of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), Cannabis is said to contain more than 60 other chemical compounds. It is these other elements that The UWI and its partners want to exploit in its mission to treat a host of complaints for which modern medicines have no answer. Researchers are particularly excited by the possibilities of the cannabinoids (CBDs), which are believed to hold most of the medicinal properties in cannabis, McDonald said. He explained that the newest to be discovered, the terpenes, work with other compounds in what is known as “the entourage effect”. Scientists at The UWI’s research partner Citiva Medical are also excited by the promise of ‘terpenes’, particularly after the team successfully developed cannabis-derived products to treat a number of ailments. Citiva is the company behind Charlotte’s Web - a strain of cannabis with less than 0.3 % THC—which is being used to treat paediatric epilepsy.


Prior to being treated with the cannabis extract, 8-year-old Charlotte Figi reportedly suffered up to 300 seizures a day due to a rare form of epilepsy, even while on traditional medicines. The extract from Charlotte’s Web and continued success of the treatments using the oil is one of several success stories from Citiva. The strain of cannabis named Charlotte’s Web for the little American girl, is being grown at The UWI and will be studied with a view to standardising the extracts. The aim is to ensure that every cannabis plant used for medicine has exactly “the same levels of the specific chemical compounds” required to target specific illnesses, with the same results. In the medicinal cannabis world, Citiva’s executive director Josh Stanley is a rock star. Described as ‘telegenic’ in his approach to the marketing of cannabis as the future of medicine, both Stanley and the equally visionary McDonald share the belief that research in cannabis goes way beyond smoking the weed. “We are interested in the whole plant, getting away from the single compound and into the promise of its biology—a multi-compound approach to its natural properties,” Stanley said. McDonald noted: “We are using our permit effectively to help us to establish a centre of excellence in cannabis research in the Caribbean. We want the Mona Campus to become the leader in Cannabis research internationally”. And there is no shortage of researchers willing to help him build The UWI’s reputation and join the quest to find treatment for a long list of complaints. In addition to examining the use of cannabis in the treatment of diabetes, epilepsy, cancer and chronic pain, The UWI Medicinal Cannabis Research Group (UWI-MCRG) is also contemplating the possibilities for its use in anaesthesia and psychiatry among other areas. Since 2010 The UWI’s Forensic Science programme under the leadership of Professor Wayne McLaughlin has diligently mapped the DNA of cannabis linking it to its origin to among other things, help identify key ganja growing areas on the island. These days, the data

is being repurposed and put to more beneficial uses, he said. McLaughlin noted that chemical and gene profiling have allowed researchers to classify cannabis plants not only by the names the farmers give them, but also by the plants’ colouring, their unique chemical compositions as well as by the genes that will make them less susceptible to contamination from heavy metals and other impurities. “Now we are not only able to track the plants but also look at other genes that are important to the plant and its survival. We can now identify those plants with high and low THC and CBD levels as well as identify male and female plants,” the forensic scientist said. The UWI-MC Research Group are light years ahead of the authorities and were ready with numerous project ideas covering all areas of medicine and science by the time the University received its exemption permit last year. “The lobby (for legalisation) had the widest cross section of people and professions I’ve ever seen,” Professor McDonald laughed. The result, he explained, is that The UWI is already working on scores of projects ranging from basic science studies to pre-clinical and clinical studies, all in an effort to expand knowledge of the therapeutic uses of cannabis.

At the same time, the medicinal research is being enhanced by the ongoing chemical and DNA analyses of the plant. McLaughlin agreed that with so much of the gene sequencing and identification of the chemicals already complete, the work done by his team has slashed several years from the expected start-up of clinical trials. It also makes possible the start of the planned Pain Clinic by year’s end, just about coinciding with the start of clinical trials at the University Hospital of the West Indies. The United States medical marijuana industry is expected to earn as much as US$13 billion by 2019 up from US$2.7 billion in 2014. It is expected that The UWI and indeed Jamaica can earn a significant share of the global market from pharmaceuticals, bringing jobs and much needed development. But there will be no products to smoke at The UWI’s medical research facilities, even with the US$100 million in monthly sales the US State of Colorado reportedly makes from medical marijuana.

“Now we are not only able to track the plants but also look at other genes that are important to the plant and its survival.” Professor Wayne McLaughlin


Unraveling the Science Behind Ganja “We aim to change their perception that Jamaica is about a bunch of Rastas and tourists getting high,” researcher Carole Lindsay said chuckling. She has been leading the chemical analysis of every strain of cannabis the University collects from farmers. A professional analytical chemist, Lindsay noted that creating the chemical profiles of the plants found in Jamaica is critical to protecting both the country’s and the University’s interests. “Our local strains of cannabis are vulnerable because we assume that with all the interest in ganja, people could be bringing in plants to grow them here. We also know that farmers have been doing their own cross breeding for years,” she explained. Aside from ongoing research into the properties and effects of cannabis, The UWI was among the first in the world to successfully develop medicines from the plant. Its work, going back to 1972 when ophthalmologist Albert Lockhart and pharmacologist Dr. Manley West began investigating the anecdotes of fishermen who attributed their exceptional night-vision to their consumption of ‘ganja teas’. From their research, the Department of Pharmacology in 1987 released the Canasol (TM), eye drops to treat glaucoma and followed that success in later years by a number of pioneering marijuana-derived pharmaceuticals: Asmasol for asthma; Cantivert also used to treat glaucoma; Canavert for motion sickness and Cansens for treating viral infections. “They (the products) were sold on the local market but we really never managed to export it because of the cannabis. But what it showed clearly, was that there are substances in ganja which can provide effective treatment of glaucoma and asthma,” McDonald, a surgeon by training said. Much of the University’s work in cannabis is unknown internationally because the laws that prohibited the use of marijuana severely hampered the 28 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

Analytical Chemist, Carole Lindsay (left) and colleague, Dr. Lauriann Young PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ZADIE NEUFVILLE

University’s research programme as well as the marketing of the products. In Jamaica, the ‘weed’ is also listed as a dangerous drug and until April 2016, possession attracted penalties of imprisonment. The 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs criminalised the possession of ganja, a plant that had been used for generations as traditional medicine by local healers and householders. When parliament ratified the amendment to the Dangerous Drug Act on April 15, it revived decades old research ambitions at The UWI and other local institutions. It also paved the way for a “broad permit” that facilitated the planting of the first legal cannabis plant, thereby establishing The UWI’s own ‘ganja’ plot and officially initiating the production and testing of cannabis derived medicines. The amendment that was inked on February 6— birthdate of the late reggae icon Bob Marley—relaxed rules on the use of ganja on the island. Nowadays, possession of two ounces (56 grams) or less, no longer results in jail time. Rastafarians can freely use ‘ganja’ as a sacrament for the first time since the birth of their movement in the 1930s and householders are allowed to grow up to five plants.

In the months since, several companies have released a number of nutraceuticals and topical pain products derived from cannabis. Notwithstanding, McDonald said, The UWI is interested in the whole plant. “Our interest is in unraveling the science behind ganja,” he said. It’s a philosophy shared by its major partners including Citiva Medical, which Stanley a co-founder said, includes the belief “that the future of cannabinoid medicine lies in strict adherence to unraveling the science”. As head of The UWI Cannabis Research Group, McDonald is expecting even more successes with new technologies, new investments, new partners and if negotiations go well, he is also looking forward to creating improved versions of Canasol and Asmasol. US Federal legislation classification of cannabis the plant as a class 1 drug has forced the Jamaican government to tread lightly, even as it granted permits to The UWI and others. Regardless, the University is accelerating its research, construction of green houses, the cultivation of several species of cannabis and the signing of MOUs with agencies and organisations from across the globe.

“The UWI Mona Campus will lead the world in medical cannabis (marijuana) research” Professor Archibald McDonald, Principal of The UWI Mona Campus


There are several proposals awaiting the regulations and profiling must be done quickly to continue supporting the research and development. To aid the process, more than US$600,000 have been spent to upgrade the equipment in CARITOX, the Toxicology lab. “We are expecting that many products will be produced and have to be tested and quality checked for them to be marketed. We also expect the USDA will soon come up with regulations on cannabis-derived medicines and we are preparing to meet them,” Lindsay said. Construction of The UWI Mona Cannabis Research Centre and supporting facilities to expand the institutions research capacity and house its partners is estimated to cost some US$4 million. McDonald is expecting that funding from partners will equip and build the new facility as “their contribution to The UWI’s 40-year cannabis research legacy, accommodation and the prestige of brandJamaica”.



The Plant That Keeps Giving

by Shereen Ali

Original series published in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Newspaper, November 2015. Reprinted with permission of the author and editor, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Copyright © 2015. Guardian Media Limited.



Breadfruit dishes, from roasts to coconut milk oil-downs to crispy chips, have warmed the heart and belly of many a Caribbean person—especially in St. Vincent, where breadfruit is a passion. In Trinidad and Tobago, it’s been a part of the landscape and culture, too: “If you have a breadfruit tree in your yard, you’ll never starve,” said a grizzled Roger from Belmont one night, a senior bartender/ entrepreneur who remembered many times in his youth when, cared for by an elderly grandmother figure, the breadfruit tree in their back yard was often the only thing that fed them in tough times. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


Breadfruit – The Plant That Keeps Giving


readfruit first came to the Caribbean in 1793, when Captain William Bligh of the ship HMS Providence brought young plants from Tahiti in the South Pacific to plant in the Caribbean. The idea was to provide a cheap, plentiful food for enslaved peoples, to prevent persistent famine and food shortages in the sugargrowing colonies. And so it was: breadfruit spread to the West Indian islands. Foodwise, breadfruit is a winner, being a highenergy source of carbohydrates, and wonderfully low in fat, with good fibre, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, and niacin. It is gluten-free. It is a form of starch that releases sugar slowly into the bloodstream, compared to cereals from wheat flour which release a burst of sugar—so breadfruit is better for diabetes and obesity control. You can curry breadfruit, steam it, roast it, fry it, boil it or grill it: it absorbs almost any flavour. You can eat it as a starch staple, as part of a salad, as a snack or as a sweet dessert, or even as a chutney or pickle, depending on how ripe it is, and your recipe. And according to Dr. Laura Roberts-Nkrumah, Senior Lecturer in Crop Science at The University of the West Indies (UWI), breadfruit has great potential as a powerhouse for sustainable local agriculture—a potential we’ve yet to realise. Breadfruit: So Sustainable Dr. Roberts-Nkrumah is passionate about Caribbean agriculture, and is especially fascinated by breadfruit. She’s been lecturing at The UWI since 1988—27 years; 25 of those have been focused on breadfruit research—as a crop and as a policy issue for food security. Dr. Roberts-Nkrumah spoke about why we should be treating breadfruit with a great deal more respect. “Breadfruit as a perennial tree crop offers a lot of advantages that are long lasting. As a perennial crop, it does not have to be replanted annually, so there is no annual disturbance to the soil as you would have with short-term crops,” she explained. “Also, when it sheds its leaves, it allows for recycling of nutrients. As a large tree, it also sequesters carbon in its biomass. And the shedding of leaves provides


mulch, which conserves soil moisture during the dry season, and very importantly, also helps to prevent soil loss, particularly in hilly areas.” Soil erosion protection is a valuable service: in the Pacific, breadfruit agroforests have protected mountain slopes from erosion for more than two millenia, notes the Breadfruit Institute, which manages the largest and most extensive breadfruit collection in the world. Located in Hawaii at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the institute conserves and researches breadfruit varieties, and seeks to expand plantings of good quality breadfruit varieties in tropical regions for food security. The institute website notes that in traditional agroforestry systems in the Pacific, breadfruit trees for centuries have created a lush overstory for tropical agroforestry, sheltering a wide range of cultivated and native plants grown for food and other purposes. It also notes that breadfruit trees give shelter and food for important plant pollinators and seed dispersers such as honeybees, birds, and fruit bats. “Breadfruit helps prolong soil fertility, even in a cropping system,” explained Dr. Roberts-Nkrumah, “—and that’s why breadfruit in Trinidad and Tobago has been traditionally planted with cocoa—because it helps to create the kind of environment in which cocoa will grow well; it provides the shade, it helps retain the soil’s moisture, recycles nutrients and so on.” “So breadfruit protects the environment,” said Roberts-Nkrumah. “And because it’s a long-term crop, it can also be a sustainable source of income and nutrition for a long period—for more than one generation. It epitomises what sustainable agriculture is about.” Roberts-Nkrumah doesn’t think we have explored this potential enough. She commented that some of our elders would know of the multiple uses of breadfruit. In addition to food, for instance, the plant can be used for medicine; the wood pulp can be made into paper; three breadfruit compounds—capric, undecanoic and lauric acids—are good insect repellants; the white sticky sap (“laglee” in Trinidad and Tobago lingo) can be used as an adhesive; and the light, sturdy, termite-resistant wood can be used for construction of structures including houses and outrigger canoes. It’s a tough tree,

too: even after hurricane damage, a damaged breadfruit tree can survive and regrow itself. It’s a truly resilient, multipurpose plant. Although many of us like eating breadfruit, there’s a reason it’s never been grown on a large commercial scale in Trinidad and Tobago. And this has a lot to do with our own historical lack of basic information on the plant, its many varieties, and which varieties might be better for which purposes—even though breadfruit

has been growing here since the late 18th century. Roberts-Nkrumah recalled that even up to the 1990s, there was almost no research being done on breadfruit, whether in Trinidad and Tobago or worldwide: “No one was doing the kind of research that would have been put into sugar or banana or corn, for instance,” she remembered. That dearth of information was a barrier to economic investment in breadfruit as a commercial crop, she said.

You can curry


steam it, roast it, fry it, boil it or grill it:

it absorbs almost any flavour.


Breadfruit – The Plant That Keeps Giving Due partly to the research efforts at The UWI, though, that situation is changing; much of Dr. RobertsNkrumah’s own research has been on expanding the available germplasm and evaluating different varieties of breadfruit in Trinidad and Tobago. Breadfruit—High Yields Roberts-Nkrumah was attracted to breadfruit for two reasons: its high yields (one tree can yield from 30 to 200 fruits per season), and the permanence of the trees, which last a long time. “There are breadfruit trees in our landscape that have been there for generations,” she commented. She said there were two main barriers to commercial breadfruit agriculture here. The first is our limited stock of germplasm: “The genetic variability is very limited, because breadfruit is an introduced crop to the Caribbean—there was just so much that Captain Bligh could have brought. And he collected from a very small area.” She said we have only two main varieties here: the White and the Yellow. Both bear seasonally. While seasonality is not necessarily a big issue—we can eat other starchy foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, or cassava instead—we can still explore whether there are other breadfruit varieties that can bear at other times of the year, she said. The second—and bigger—problem to commercial breadfruit production is harvesting, said RobertsNkrumah. Breadfruit, after all, comes from a tall tree: “This huge yield you get from a breadfruit tree is because you are dealing with a very large plant. How will you check to see the fruit’s level of maturity? How will you get the fruit down from trees 50 to 60 feet tall? Also, remember it is a fruit—when it ripens, it falls, and can get damaged or squashed. So while height might be great for productivity (per unit area of ground, using vertical space), it has challenges for harvesting and marketability of the fruit.” Roberts-Nkrumah saw there was a genetic aspect to both these problems, therefore she decided to pursue expansion of the breadfruit germplasm.


Current UWI Research Ongoing UWI research in the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, said Roberts-Nkrumah, includes evaluating different breadfruit varieties. The faculty does breadfruit field research at the University Field Station in Valsayn, and some research is also done at the PCS Nitrogen Model Farm in Couva. These organisations also collaborate annually on training sessions for farmers. The research is examining the different breadfruit varieties for their types of growth and development (including height); their yields; their seasonality; their disease resistance (in both the tree and the fruit); and propagation methods by improving traditional methods and using new approaches, including tissue culture and grafting. Most breadfruit we get in the Caribbean are the large, seedless types—White and Yellow varieties—and therefore have more pulp for human consumption, said Roberts-Nkrumah. But there are many seeded types, and many other varieties, elsewhere. In Hawaii at the Breadfruit Institute, for instance, there are some 120 varieties of breadfruit. Roberts-Nkrumah noted most breadfruit in Trinidad grows along the east coast and in the valleys, because of the higher moisture there. And she said that if farmers were thinking of investing in breadfruit as a crop, they first need to do their research and have a plan, as breadfruit is a long-term crop. They must carefully consider their markets, among other important factors, before deciding on a variety. She said basic questions would be: Why do you want to grow breadfruit? What will be its end use? And what kind of consumers will you sell it to? So far, some advances in The UWI’s breadfruit research at the St. Augustine Campus include: a wider stock of germplasm characterising cultivars; more information on breadfruit’s nutritional composition; consumer preferences; information of properties of breadfruit flour and related products; and post-harvest management, processing, and design of processing equipment. At the Mona Campus research has been done on medicinal properties.

New Breadfruit Community Online Last year, The UWI’s Faculty of Food and Agriculture hosted a successful International Breadfruit Conference (July 5-8) at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain, which attracted presenters from the Pacific, Asia, Africa, the US and the Caribbean. It was the first conference on breadfruit ever held in Trinidad and Tobago, and generously supported by PCS Nitrogen Trinidad Limited, the major sponsor. Dr. Roberts-Nkrumah said the impact of the conference has been very good. As a result of networking and knowledge exchanged there, institutional use of breadfruit may increase. Also, emerging from the conference, there will be more research done to put breadfruit into consumer hands, and there have been increased requests for help from farmers. Also, there’s a healthy interest in harnessing breadfruit into community tourism along the east coast—and an increasing recognition of breadfruit’s potential in community development. Triggered by interest at the conference, there will also soon be a new breadfruit website; there is already a new Facebook page called the International Breadfruit Network, to exchange ideas and information across geographical borders on anything breadfruit-related. “I feel it’s the food of the future,” said Olelo pa’a Faith Ogawa, a Hawaii-born private chef, to writer Julia Sile for a 2011 Wall Street Journal article on breadfruit: “If I were to speak to the breadfruit spirit, it would tell me: ‘Grow me! Eat me!’ It can feed villages!” For more information The International Breadfruit Network https://www.facebook.com/breadfruitnetwork The UWI Department of Food Production http://sta.uwi.edu/ffa/foodprod/ Tel: (868) 662-2002, ext 83989 Email: food.production@sta.uwi.edu First Floor, Sir Frank Stockdale Building, Department of Food Production, Faculty of Food and Agriculture, The UWI, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago The Breadfruit Institute http://ntbg.org/breadfruit/ The Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden, 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii USA 96741 Tel: (808) 332-7324 Email: breadfruitinstitute@ntbg.org

Breadfruit & Dahl Curry Serves 5-6


1 small size breadfruit (about 300gm) 100 gm toor dal (split pigeon peas) 1 level tsp tamarind paste ½ tsp turmeric powder 2 large onions sliced fine Oil or ghee for frying For the masala: 6 long dry red chillies 1 tsp coriander 1 tsp channa dahl (split chickpeas) Pinch of hing (asafoetida) (optional) 1 cup grated coconut (or half a coconut grated) For the seasoning/tempering: ½ tsp mustard 1 sprig curry leaves (kadipatta) 1 tbsp oil or ghee


1. Wash and cut the breadfruit into half (vertically) and remove the skin gently. Cut into quarters, remove the pith and cut into small chunks. 2. Wash the split peas and pressure cook with sufficient water and a little salt. Set aside. 3. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat some oil or ghee and roast the ingredients mentioned in ‘For the masala’. Grind to a fine paste using a little water. 4. In another pan, add the tamarind water, breadfruit chunks, turmeric powder, sliced onions, salt to taste and some water and cook it on slow fire till the breadfruit is tender (but not mushy). Add to this the ground masala and the precooked toor dahl (split pigeon peas) and the dahl water, if required to achieve a gravy consistency. Check salt and bring the curry to a boil. 5. Season the curry with the seasoning for which you need to heat some oil in a pan and toss in the mustard—when they splutter, add the curry leaves and add this mixture to the curry. 6. Serve hot with rice. Recipe courtesy www.ruchikrandhap.com




MIND An Innovator’s

by Natasha Coker-Jones

So the system that you use every day frustrates you to no end? Do you (a) complain bitterly and use it anyway (b) vent on social media and hope that someone “in authority” acts, or (c) volunteer to fix it yourself. For Oswald Smith—a third year student of The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus—the choice was a no brainer. His decision to reject a and b and take the far more daring route of volunteering to tackle the problem himself, has paid off. Apart from earning the respect of thousands of commuters across his home island of Jamaica, he has the unexpected pleasure of being the Mona Campus’s new face of innovation. Unofficially.



An Innovator’s Mind – Oswald Smith “The project was born out of frustration and enlightened self-interest,” Smith, 29, told The Pelican with a chuckle. “I don’t drive, and I depend on public transport.” The fix that The UWI student is being credited with is implementing Google Transit for Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). Commuters using JUTC buses can now whip out their smartphones or tablets and work out routes, stops, and the cost of their trip. And in case you were wondering, no—Smith was not paid, nor did he get any extra credits for his work. The project was purely extracurricular. “I was just motivated to see it done,” he said, matter-of-factly in a Skype interview. “I just wanted this to exist. I’ve grown up in a time when I am used to having information available. Going to a bus stop and asking maybe another commuter what bus goes where and what time it’s supposed to come—that’s really outdated. Come on. It’s the twenty-first century.”

It’s sentiments like these that probably inspired Drucker’s quote about dispensing with the old if you want to do something new. It’s the same solutionsbased thinking that propelled The UWI, St. Augustine’s recent graduate Jesse Saitoo to invent MAVERICK—an app which allows persons living with visual impairment in Trinidad and Tobago to identify their currency notes without the help of someone who is sighted. He too was a third year undergrad. It certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed that both young men seem hardwired for computer sciences. Saitoo belonged to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, while Smith is a computer science major in the Department of Computing. The Journal paper outlining Saitoo’s approach was accepted for publication in the West Indian Journal of Engineering. For Smith, the boon came when he


was invited to deliver a presentation at a technical conference targeted at users of Python—a high-level programming language. The system Smith created to generate the Google Transit feed is implemented in Python. His talk entitled, “Python Parsing for Public Passengers” was delivered at the conference which ran from February 20 to 22 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In solving the data transformation issue, the St. Mary High School alumnus drew on his familiarity with the Google Transit programme which allows public routes, fares, and schedules to be placed within Google Maps. He bounced the idea of a local application of Google Transit off of Dr. Ezra Mugisa, Head of the Department of Computing. “He loved the idea and he encouraged me to contact JUTC to see if they were interested,” Smith said. “I honestly was not expecting to get anywhere, but to my surprise [JUTC] loved the idea and they pledged their support immediately. They said it was something commuters would love.”

The project was born out of frustration and enlightened self-interest



An Innovator’s Mind – Oswald Smith

Transit Smith advised the government-owned bus service of the kind of data he would need and the format he needed it in. JUTC surprised him again when it made the data available without delay. The young innovator was then left to figure out how to integrate JUTC’s data into Google Transit. Google Transit required that transit data be in a format called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)—a common format for public transport schedules and associated geographic information. “My challenge now was to transform the data JUTC gave me into GTFS.” After spending a few hours attempting to manually transform the data, Smith determined that it would take him months of full-time work to get it all done. “That’s when I realised I’m a computer science student and the computer should be doing this for me. So I spent a weekend and created a system that would convert all the data to GTFS in 20 seconds .” 40 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

Creating such a system called for a thorough understanding of the GTFS format. Smith conducted the necessary research and eventually came up with something. “Listen, I jumped and touched the ceiling,” he said of the moment he realised that his system worked. “What I was doing before was like transferring data cell to cell in an Excel spread sheet. Now I could click a button and it would just…” The acid test came, however, when he had to go back to Google who would then verify that everything in the feed is actually what exists in real life. The data went live on Google Maps in May 2015 and is accessible through the Google Maps app. So how does a full-time student juggle his extra duties while keeping up with assignments, lectures, and exams? “It boiled down to time management and a lot of early mornings and late nights,” he said. Smith hopes to pursue graduate studies in a year or two. He sees himself fitting into “some sort of technical entrepreneurship.” Smith averred that he’s always been an entrepreneur. He recalled what he did when his parents refused to buy him the electronic brick game (Tetris) he wanted when he was 10 years old. “I saved my lunch money, went to the wholesale store and bought these small candies and started reselling. I was always seeing ways to get things done.” Smith wants to undertake more transit work in other Caribbean territories—this time as a paid consultant. He joked that his pro bono days are long behind him. And while the initial job was free, he now has a paid contract with JUTC to maintain the system. The public launch on August 25 was televised and covered extensively by the Jamaica media. “To see everybody out there. That’s when it hit home.” By everybody he meant senior JUTC officials, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona Campus Professor Archibald McDonald, other senior campus officials, and members of the travelling public. People still stop him on the street to say how much having the new system means to them. And while he didn’t need to involve the lecturers in the actual project, he thanked the University for creating “an atmosphere of possibility.” He singled out

Faculty Liaison Dr. Curtis Busby-Earle for his role. Smith’s family was also at the launch. That meant the most to him. His dad has passed, but his mom, siblings and even a visiting cousin were present to support. He laughed when he spoke about his mom’s reaction to all he’d accomplished. “She opened her eyes wide and said ‘you young people and this technology.’” As a child he was the one always tinkering with computers and electronics, ruining several appliances in the process. Hear that, parents. Let them play!

And in case you were wondering, no—Smith was not paid, nor did he get any extra credits for his work. The project was purely extracurricular.




Research for a

Better Region by Joel Henry


erhaps more than any other region, the Caribbean has a long tradition of public intellectuals and academics that have made a pivotal contribution to its development. During the colonial era they turned their energies towards anti-imperialism. In the post-colonial era they shepherded the growth of the fledgling Caribbean society. All along the way they relied on new ideas, bolstered by research, to find answers for questions around the alleviation of poverty, modernisation, prosperity, Caribbean identity and its place in the world. It’s a powerful legacy, that of knowledge and research-based development, one which is just as necessary today. In fact, with persistent economic challenges, greater global competition, crime, environmental dangers and a host of other issues, it could be argued that the need for research-driven solutions is more pressing than ever. And research is one of The University of the West Indies’ chief roles. “The relationship between society and achievement is one of supply and demand,” Sir Arthur Lewis, one 42 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

of those original Caribbean intellectuals, once said while speaking on the topic of entrepreneurship and innovation. The demand is there—for solutions. The challenge is for Caribbean society to recognise that research can be the supply and to ensure the quality and quantity of that supply. “We are at a special time because of need,” says Professor Dale Webber, The UWI’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Graduate Studies and Research. PVC Webber received the Graduate Studies appointment in August 2015 and the Research three months later, making him point person for all areas relating to policy and operations for both portfolios. He seems acutely aware of the urgency of the research agenda—for the university and the wider society—yet he’s remarkably at ease. There’s an easy-going, deepseated confidence in his tone. “I am very ambitious person,” he laughs. “I work tirelessly to achieve my goals. The secret to my success is perseverance. I recognise the challenge we face and I am coming.”

“This alignment between research and the needs of the society is crucial.”


Research for a Better Region – Professor Dale Webber


esearch, Innovation, Development PVC Webber’s certainty is reassuring—and understandable. Specialising in Coastal Ecology and Environmental Management, he has been a member of academic staff at The UWI for more than 25 years and a member of the administration at the Mona Campus since 2003. Published in over 35 peer-reviewed journals and acting as supervisor for over 60 graduate students, Professor Webber was also the Director of the Centre for Marine Sciences at Mona and the GraceKennedy James Moss-Solomon Senior Chair in Environmental Management. The Professor has written numerous technical reports for Caribbean governments and held senior positions on several environmental and education-related bodies outside of the university. As PVC he will use his qualifications and experience to support the research community, encourage more research and the growth of the research culture, and most importantly, strengthen the connections between the university and the society to spur research-driven innovation and development for the region. In its Strategic Plan 2012-2017, The UWI has placed major emphasis on responding to the developmental challenges of the Caribbean, and one of its key areas in doing so is “the generation of impactful cutting-edge research and innovation.” And the Caribbean needs that support today perhaps more than it ever has since independence. Its commodities badly affected first by globalisation and then by the Global Financial Crisis of 20072008, much of the region has been dealing with low growth for years. With a deadly reliance on vulnerable industries like tourism, little economic diversification, low productivity and high unemployment, Caribbean economies need help. Even standouts like Barbados and more recently Trinidad and Tobago are facing low growth as international market forces chop away at demand for their services and commodities. Recent forecasts from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimate Caribbean growth in 2016 at 0.2 percent. And the challenges of the region are not limited to its economies. The Caribbean faces issues such as crime, corruption, inequality, illness, infrastructure 44 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

and environmental concerns. Innovation can and should be used to address these as well and there is no single institution in the region in a better position to lead this action than The UWI. “In emerging countries, innovation is seen as key to addressing pressing societal problems such as pollution, health issues, poverty, and unemployment,” says the Global Innovation Index 2015 (GII), a report that focuses on the role of innovation, looks at the factors that contribute to an innovative society and ranks countries by their level of innovation. The report states, “the role and significance of innovation goes beyond the objective of economic success. Rather it should be seen through the lens of inclusive development because it can address poverty and health issues, and through the lens of environmental sustainable development because it can address problems of pollution and energy provision.” Although Barbados ranks relatively high in the GII (37 out of 141 countries), the Caribbean in general was not among the high performing regions (unlike several developing nations in other parts of the world). “No countries in the region are among innovation achievers this year; seven display below-par performances relative to their GDP per capita,” the report states. However, it also gives one of the key factors to improve performance: “The level and standard of education and research activity in a country are prime determinants of the innovation capacity of a nation…. Higher education is crucial for economies to move up the value chain beyond simple production processes and products.”


Special Time In conversation, PVC Webber prefers to focus on the opportunities rather than the challenges. His approach to research is surprisingly nuanced, particularly as the times seem to demand more applied research—pursuits geared towards the very specific material needs of society. “The ebb and flow between applied and pure research is often driven by personalities and by the society,” he says. “I believe there is an acceptance now that pure and applied research must be given

equal value. Researchers tend to think that what they do is the most important thing. But there must be an appreciation of other fields. The appreciation for the multiplicity of research is very important thing.” However, despite this egalitarian approach to the value of research, The UWI does have a structure in place to encourage applied research in 15 clusters. These include areas such as food production and security, climate change and the environment, competitiveness, security, Caribbean integration and education among others. These clusters are aligned with Caribbean development goals. He states, “our method is one of academic freedom to research combined with the need to have research answer the questions posed by the people and governments of the Caribbean. They have invested in this university and a return on that investment is expected. A response to those questions is required.” This alignment between research and the needs of the society is crucial. But it’s not as easy to take research beyond the campus as it would seem. Innovation entails risk. For business, that risk is financial, for governments it is political. Inertial forces such as complacency, fear of change and devotion to familiar ideas, practices and technologies pose a challenge to research-fuelled development. As far back as the mid-1980s, members of the Faculty of Engineering of the St. Augustine Campus formed a unit called the Real Time Systems Group (RTSG) to work with the private sector in Trinidad and Tobago on innovative projects. Although they had some successes, they were not able to form the kind of private sector/university partnerships that are common throughout the world. “The kind of engagement we saw with universities involved in other countries, pushing boundaries in research and using that research to push their products and processes on a total operational basis, we did not see happening here,” explained Professor Brian Copeland in an earlier interview, former Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at St. Augustine, and a member of the RTSG team. He added, “we came to the conclusion that our society was not designed that way, maybe because of its size or its history.”

Professor Webber concedes there can be challenges in building these relationships but knows it can work. As an environmental specialist he has been in several successful partnerships with governments, the private sector and interest groups. In fact, he believes this track record to be one of his strongest qualifications for the post. “The first thing I learned about managing the environment is that you have to manage people’s impact on the environment,” he says. “It’s about bringing data to policymakers and explaining these data. My success is based on the ability to form a bridge between research, application, influence and policy.” An outstanding example of this is the collaboration between The UWI Mona and the GraceKennedy Foundation, the philanthropic arm of this major regional corporation. Through this partnership Mona established the Environmental Management Unit, which would evolve into the Centre for Environmental Management under Professor Webber. He believes that the key for The UWI to build these relationships is to inspire confidence in the university’s capacity to meet the needs of the private sector and policymakers. “When it comes to communicating about their research, academics can be very humble. We need to get far more aggressive in our communication of what we are doing and what we can do. There may be a fear that we cannot respond to the needs of the private sector. We have to convince them that we are a better option,” he says. This approach entails much more active engagement with business and with bureaucrats from throughout the region to understand their developmental needs and in some cases assist them in creating their developmental plans. The UWI can then match those needs with the research clusters.


ncentivising Inquiry There are numerous scholars throughout the campuses of The UWI doing outstanding research. There are academics and graduate students with ideas and inclinations towards research work but either because of time or necessity are unable to devote themselves to the activity. There are members THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


Research for a Better Region – Professor Dale Webber

The Grateful Leader On a map of Jamaica, the town of Mandeville is fairly close to the island’s centre. Known for its agriculture, it is unusual indeed for one of the sons of this landlocked parish capital to be one of the island’s premier specialists on coastal ecology. “Who would have thought that as a country boy growing up in the middle of a large island I would end up being so deeply involved with the ocean,” Professor Webber says. And were it not for The UWI it might not have happened. Originally he went to the Mona Campus on a scholarship to study Agriculture. But on a field trip to The UWI’s Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, seeing the sea from so close, he immediately knew his calling.

of the university community with the aptitude for groundbreaking and relevant research but have not been inspired. How does the university reach these people? PVC Webber has several initiatives in mind to encourage and expand the research community. Some can be introduced in the short term while others will be incorporated as part of the new strategic plan (he is on the team developing the plan, as he was for the 2012-2017 plan). Research is separated into three components—faculty-led research, graduate-led research and funding and partnerships. One of his major ambitions is to facilitate research in the islands that do not host a main campus. “We need to empower the small islands like Antigua, St. Kitts and all the other Caribbean countries that have enormous potential to produce critical research,” he says. “The UWI is a Caribbean institution and every island has a stake in its development.” Professor Webber is also considering incentives to encourage academic staff and graduate students to take part in research such research-only positions (freeing them from having to teach), giving semester breaks so that they can concentrate on research and 46 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

“I saw the open ocean and that was it. I saw, for the first time, coral reefs.” This was the university’s first gift to Professor Webber—the gift of discovering his passion. In his telling of it, it was the first of many gifts. This is why his approach to The UWI and its work is one of gratitude. “My motivation is to benefit the university. I have always worked with the university—starting as a warden on Taylor Hall. My motivation is to get the university to be the best it can be. The university has saved me. I remember almost failing my way out in my first year. It was my lecturer who called me and encouraged me to improve. I almost felt like I was being groomed. Having gained so much from the institution, I felt I needed to pay it back three or four times.”

increasing administrative support so that researchers can concentrate on research while others handle procurement and management of projects. One of the most interesting initiatives that PVC Webber and the university executive team are considering is the activation of a Research Advisory Committee: “The Statutes and Ordinances related to Graduate Studies and Research makes provisions for a Research Advisory Committee. The committee is to be made up of 50 percent of non-university members. That means seven members of the 14 member team will be from areas such as development, entrepreneurship, music and others. The committee will also provide for staff to have an advisory role. We will be listening to both the society and the researchers.” For the members of the research community working in their silos in their separate departments on their distant campuses, these are hopeful statements for greater cohesion and resources for their work. The new Pro ViceChancellor has a message for them as well: “We need to give another push,” he says. “We can change the world but we have to work together. There are a lot of things we can achieve but we have to all work together. Bring your research.”




“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions” the saying goes, and combined with his rural upbringing it has given Professor Webber powerful tools to accomplish his goals. “Adversity can breed either complete breakdown or strength of character,” he says of the farmer’s life. “The struggle becomes a mind-set. As long as you set your goals, especially if you have been able to set your goals and achieve them, you will have a formula to follow.” He is thankful for the support of his team as well— colleagues, students, secretaries and all those he has worked with at the university. “I am always looking for ways to energise the team,” he says. “I bring an energy. I am bringing that energy to my new portfolios.”




What future is there for the rest of the Caribbean? By Dr. Jacqueline Laguardia Martinez




ecember 17, 2014, meant a fundamental change in international politics. Almost at the same time, both in Cuba and the United States, Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama addressed their fellow citizens to announce the releasing of prisoners and, for the surprise of the many, their intentions on normalising bilateral relations. A month later, on January 15, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments announced regulations that ratified the political will of President Obama of changing the US hostile policy towards the neighbour island. From that moment on, US companies were authorised to export goods intended to empower the Cuban private sector, a general license that authorises companies to establish mechanisms to provide commercial telecommunications services in Cuba or linking third countries and Cuba was approved, financial institutions may open accounts at Cuban banks and US credit and debit cards can been used in Cuba, among other measures. Yes, the embargo is still in place but some fissures have started to appear in the intricate legal skein of the US policy towards Cuba as this first package of measures—together with further steps slowly taken by the US administration—shows. What have these actions altered for both countries? What has changed for the rest of the Caribbean? Moreover, what could be the changes to come? Addressing these questions is not an easy task. The process is still very recent and advances cautiously for many and diverse reasons. Without exhausting all the possible arguments and answers, we will explore some of the key transformations already registered and what impacts to expect for the rest of the Caribbean region —acknowledging that Cuba is, indeed, a Caribbean country. After December 2014 A balance of a year of negotiations accounts favourably on the progress side made on dismantling the US highly regulated policy towards Cuba and on settling the institutional channels to establish a permanent dialogue on issues of mutual interest where common positions prevail over discrepancies. Technical conversations in civil aviation, direct postal service, telecommunications, environmental protection and security have been followed by agreements on cellular telephone roaming and commercial aviation among others. The launch of the bilateral commission on September 2015 as a mechanism for permanent dialogue beyond the role that both Embassies plays, is a palpable sign of the commitment both governments have on pushing the normalisation process as far as possible before President Obama finishes his mandate. The removal of Cuba from the list of States sponsors of international terrorism in May 2015 was an important step on this normalisation effort. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


The establishment of official mechanisms has been accompanied by high-level visits, mostly from US representatives to Cuba. Three US Secretaries have visited the island: Sec. Thomas J. Vilsack (Agriculture) led a delegation to Cuba in November 2015; Sec. Penny Pritzker (Commerce) did it in October 2015 and Sec. John Kerry (State) visited Havana for the opening of the US Embassy in August 2015. Four Governors have travelled to Cuba accompanied by businesspersons of their States: Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe in January 2016, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in December 2015, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in September 2015 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2015. In addition, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy Daniel A. Sepulveda visited Cuba in January 2016 and Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas did it in October 2015. Not just US politicians and businesspersons have run to Havana to undertake President Obama’s new 50 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

policy on Cuba or calibrate economic opportunities in the island. Another tangible variation is the increase on foreigners visiting Cuba, specially coming from the United States. Doing tourism in Cuba is still forbidden for Americans citizens by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. However, CubanAmericans can easily travel to the island as well as American citizens under the 12 categories of authorised travel. The growing interest on Cuba and the rush to visit it ‘before American tourists arrive’ has triggered the tourist activity. In 2015, Cuba received a record 3.52 million visitors, up 17.4 percent from 2014. American visits rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans. In September 2015 alone, traditionally one of the slowest months for tourist arrivals in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean, the island welcomed nearly 200,000 visitors, a figure that was up 27.4 per cent from the same period in 2014.

Impacts on the Caribbean The rise of tourist arrivals to Cuba at the expense of other Caribbean destinations was one of the forecast negative effects portrayed as an adverse outcome of a changing US–Cuba relationship, together with concerns regarding US investments, trade and aid funds deviating to Cuba. Cuba was described as a threat for the rest of the Caribbean, since the region is a major tourism destination for Americans and is highly reactive to the US economy. Fortunately, the narrative on the consequences for the Caribbean derived from the renewed relationship also recognises that the developments in Cuba may act as catalyst to economic activity for the region. The idea of taking advantage of the relationship of Cuba with the US have been gaining space, especially in an scenario where within the US still exist key impediments that prevent its private sector to fully engage in relations with Cuba, being

the embargo the biggest obstacle. This is precisely the strategy that firms and governments from other regions have been actively promoting in order to exploit the growing interest and virgin opportunities in Cuba and get ahead the Americans. For instance, Iberia resumed direct flights Madrid-Havana after a two-year absence; Air Europa announced plans to operate direct flights from US to Cuba and Air China launched a direct flight between Beijing and Havana. In the meantime, most West Indians in the Caribbean have to travel to Cuba via COPA and the prospect of Caribbean Airlines to begin direct flights to Cuba has not yet materialised. Companies as Meliá, Sherritt International and Huawei are involved in various projects and expanding their investments in Cuba in areas that range from constructing hotels and golf fields to bring Internet to private homes. Caribbean firms, on the other hand, are rarely present in the island. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


US-Cuba Reviewed Relationship – Dr. Jacqueline Laguardia Martinez The good news is that ‘the-time-to-go-to-Cubais-now’ criteria seems to be gaining momentum in the Caribbean. Cuba is recognised as a potential 11 million consumers market, with highly educated and healthy labour force, low crime rates and countless unexploited opportunities to start business in almost every sector. For CARICOM member states possibilities increase since they enjoy particular advantages to improve economic relations with Cuba. Among them, we highlight the historical bonds of diplomatic relations and cooperation programmes cemented since 1972 when four young independent Caribbean states decided to break the policy of isolation towards Cuba promoted by the United States, the 2000 Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between CARICOM and Cuba revised in 2014 and the Trinidad and Tobago Trade Facilitation Office functioning in Havana. Cuba can be an attractive market for Caribbean products and services, act as regional hub through the Mariel port and be part of multi-destination tourism cruises routes, just to mention some real possibilities in the horizon. At the same time, Caribbean partners could

provide entrepreneurial experience to their Cuban counterparts, particularly in the services area with major emphasis in the tourism sector. Interesting opportunities are likewise present in the culture industries sector. Cuba cultural rich life, its traditions, landscapes, architecture, rhythms, colours, urban life, have caught the attention of artists and entrepreneurs that have rightfully assessed the growing value of the ‘Cuba’ brand. In spite of the many regulations still in place that prevent American doing business and going to Cuba, first moves have been already taken in the entertainment sector beyond the constantly reported visits of international celebrities to Havana. Another attractive area for boosting Caribbean participation in Cuba, that also appeals US attention, is medical services due to the international legacy of Cuban health care. First steps have also been made in that direction from the US side. The opportunities that Cuba represents as an attractive economic niche are not solely consequences of the drastic change of its relations with the United States. Inner transformations as the mega-port and

the Special Economic Zone in Mariel, the renewed ties with the European Union, debt renegotiations with Russia, Mexico, China, Japan, Spain, France and Paris Club and growing investments coming from traditional economic partners are also consequence of the ongoing economic reform in Cuba. Even if it is too early to evaluate the results of the current reform, transformations are already visible. Small businesses have flourished and the private sector has grown. In July 2012, the Cuban Parliament approved a new Tax Law and in April 2014, a new Foreign Investment Law was passed. A new Electoral Law is under discussion. The 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party scheduled for April 2016 is expected to be scenario of key announcements of the development strategy for the country in the following years. Cuba: A Window of Opportunity The normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba brings both opportunities and challenges for the rest of the Caribbean. Even if the embargo is still in place and most transactions between the United States, or persons subject to US jurisdiction, and Cuba continue to be prohibited—and the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury (OFAC) continues to enforce the prohibitions of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations diligently—the Caribbean private sector can benefit from the new circumstances and the forced absence of the US capital yet in the island. The window of opportunity before the embargo is left and Americans can freely conduct business and travel to Cuba will not remain open infinitely. While the complete lifting of the embargo will take time, it is envisaged to happen even if political divisiveness and bureaucracy may slow the pace of progress. Minor but interesting actions are registered systematically and, by looking at the events of the first days of 2016, we may expect some boosting in the final months of Obama’s administration. On January 26, OFAC and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced further amendments to easing of sanctions on Cuba. On February 11, the US Department of Agriculture asked the US Congress

for 1.5 million dollars to send five officials to Cuba to work on the logistics that will support increases in trade when Congress authorises it. On February 15, the Obama administration approved the first US factory in Cuba when allowing a company from Alabama to build a $5 million to $10 million plant assembling as many as 1,000 small tractors a year for sale to private farmers in Cuba. And on February 18, President Obama announced a trip to Cuba in March. Despite the favourable prospects that for the Caribbean represent fostering economic relations with Cuba, difficulties exist above the unfinished negotiations with the US or the long-established apathy of the region’s private sector on looking at Cuba as economic destiny. Conducting business in Cuba is not an easy process due to the central-planned model, the dominant role of state-owned enterprises and the socialist bureaucracy. A second obstacle that might discourage Caribbean firms is the Cuban strategy on looking for million dollars investment projects that may rapidly transform the economic structure, bring technological change and create jobs. Finally, as the changes in the US policy towards Cuba are so new and thus so untested, Caribbean companies should approach business opportunities in Cuba with caution, mindful of the “fine print”. The elaborated US regulatory corpus on Cuba provokes most of the measures already taken to exist only in paper, since other regulations still in place interdict their effective application without breaking any laws. Any future endeavour comes with possible success and failure and the scenario of normal relations between Cuba and the US is no less for the Caribbean. The process opens opportunities and defies for a region where most states have built close diplomatic and cooperation ties with Cuba over 40 years. The challenge is now how to preserve the main achievements and seize the new hemispheric dynamics for an extended and stronger Caribbean presence in Cuba, specifically in the economic sector, being this last one still an unachieved purpose that has proved to be the weakest link of the intraregional alliance.







s s e n usi l a u s sU Interview with Alake Pilgrim

Do the individual countries of the Caribbean have what it takes to weather the storms of recession, violence, debt, spreading unemployment, trade lockouts, health pandemics, climate change, environmental disasters, and other forces threatening the lives of our people?

The short answer is NO*. So what’s next? * Based on current trends, and with an individual approach



No Longer Business as Usual

Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Deodat Maharaj, goes beyond polite conversations about Caribbean development, and points out why “business as usual” can only hasten the downward trend. He joins the voices pointing us in a new direction that could be our best chance for survival.

To me, development is about people It’s about people having choices, where they can do better than those who came before them. Where you can have equal opportunity regardless of your position on the social ladder. In light of this, it’s important to think not only about access, for example, in education, but the outcome of that access for all citizens. Development also means countries, big or small, having the ability to provide the requirements for their people to thrive and prosper. At the same time, there are some realities to consider. We, in the Caribbean, live in small states. Small states are vulnerable to economic shocks and natural disasters. Take for example Grenada. Twelve years ago they faced Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed 30 percent of homes on the island and caused EC$2.4 billion in damages, more than 200 percent of the country’s GDP. The risks posed by these disasters only increases with climate change. Climate change impacts the Caribbean in a major way. Across the world, the island nation of Kiribati, in the Pacific Ocean, faces an existential threat. Right here in our region, in Guyana, two-thirds of the population live on a thin coastal strip below sea level. The sea wall helps to protect much of Georgetown and the coast. Rising sea levels have major implications for Guyana and coastal communities across the region, where so many of our people live. Then there are a range of other challenges that have nothing to do with nature. Take for example, crime and security. We have some of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. Barbados, a relatively low crime society by most standards, has a homicide rate of 7 per 56 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

100,000 people. Yet, this is still seven times that of the United Kingdom. Based on a study commissioned by the Commonwealth, if current trends continue, some of our Caribbean countries will be among the most violent in the world by 2050. In my “Future of the Caribbean Forum” address in Trinidad & Tobago last May, I spoke about these and other issues we face.

The Debt Cycle Now, there’s little Caribbean countries can do about our geographic size and location. What we can do is build resilience to better respond to shocks, be they economic or environmental. For instance, through long-term planning and the systematic diversification of our economies, we can address some of the threats to our future. Our current reality is that the Caribbean is among the most heavily indebted regions in the world. We have three countries in the region with debt to GDP ratios of over 100 percent. Think about it this way, every dollar spent repaying debt, is a dollar lost to investment in health or education. Furthermore, there have been major changes in the global financial system, that only exacerbate our financial challenges. There are now much greater compliance requirements for financial institutions, in order to counter the financing of terrorism, money laundering, and the illicit transfer of funds. Also, given the recent global financial crisis, banks are more risk averse. These factors help to limit international financial institutions’ involvement in the Caribbean. Overseas Development Assistance is also shrinking. Despite our challenges, most CARICOM countries


UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the Future of the Caribbean Forum, May 2015, Trinidad and Trinidad.

are classified as middle-income. What we’ve seen is a decline in aid to the Caribbean, as donor countries shift their attention to conflict-ridden countries and their own constraints, such as the ongoing refugee crisis. It has become more difficult for Caribbean countries to get concessional financing, meaning that funds have to be borrowed at higher interest rates, increasing the already high debt burden.

From Dependency to Unity Meanwhile, in the last decade, the international trade landscape has undergone seismic shifts. We’ve seen the emergence of mega-regional trading blocs such as the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific partnerships. It is the sovereign right of any country to participate in arrangements that suit their national interest. At the same time, the reality for us is that if we do not quickly recognise this trading landscape

and build our collective regional capacity to effectively participate, we will be eclipsed. Take the crushing blow dealt to the banana industry in the Eastern Caribbean, when preferential trade agreements to Europe and the UK were lifted. We account for less than half of 1 percent of global trade. In fact, when you remove Trinidad and Tobago from the equation, the rest of the Caribbean accounts for less than one quarter of 1 percent of world trade. Also, the reference to us as plantation economies still applies, in that we consume what we don’t produce and produce what we do not consume. In the region, we are now almost completely dependent on tourism and foreign imports, leaving us totally vulnerable to external changes. It is time that we “go regional” with our businesses and consumer patterns, developing more robust intra-Caribbean production and trading partnerships, deepening and expanding our SouthSouth relationships, and leveraging Commonwealth connections as well.



No Longer Business as Usual To do any of this effectively, we have to move beyond insular thinking. We have to be West Indian. There is no policy alternative. The future is a unified Caribbean.

Caribbean 2050: Call for a New Vision We need to create a Caribbean 2050 Vision—a clear, long-term plan for the region: The Caribbean we want. This is what the African countries have done with Agenda 2063. This vision will require seeing ourselves differently, as innovators using the rich talent and creativity of our people, while building active and resilient regional connections. We all have a role to play in crafting this vision of sustainable development for the region (http://caribbeanfutureforum.com/). Here are a few pillars around which we can create change:

Our Oceans: What if we moved from thinking of ourselves as small island states, to operating as medium and large ocean states? St. Lucia has a land area of around 617 sq. km but a maritime zone of 15,260 sq. km. The Bahamas’ land area is just above 13,900 sq. km, but it has an ocean space of 684,000 sq. km. The Government of the Bahamas is currently making efforts to extend its continental shelf, which, if successful, will result in a maritime zone covering approximately 884,000 sq. km.

The Commonwealth is proposing an increased emphasis on the “Blue Economy” for the Caribbean— building an ocean-based economy as a way to realise inclusive growth and development. Opportunities can include marine farming, renewable energy, marine biotechnology, as well as the use of other natural resources, in addition to oil and gas. How can we create a future more closely linked to the ocean? The Commonwealth Secretariat has been working with a number of countries in the region in this regard. We have helped the Eastern Caribbean develop perhaps the world’s first sub-regional ocean policy. Think of the potential of expanding this approach across the wider region. In other parts of the world, countries have recognised the potential of the “Blue Economy” and are moving full speed ahead. Last year, the Government of Mauritius established a Ministry dedicated to the Oceans, and Mauritius’ neighbour, the Seychelles, created a Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy. We need to act quickly, before the opportunity is lost.

Our Diaspora: In 2014, the Caribbean received an estimated US$5.1 billion in remittances. Haiti, Jamaica and Guyana accounted for the largest percentage of that figure. Remittances are now higher than Overseas Development Assistance to the Caribbean. This is an opportunity in the making.

The reference to us as

plantation economies still applies, in that we consume what we don’t produce and produce what we do not consume. 58 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14


Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. The Hon. Ralph Gonsalves at the Future of the Caribbean Forum, May 2015, Trinidad and Trinidad.

I believe that currently, diaspora funding to the Caribbean is spent largely on consumption. This has to be transformed so that members of our diaspora are encouraged to become investors and stakeholders in our shared future. We need to work with our diaspora in a more systematic way—offering them opportunities to invest in the region, on the small scale, as well as on a larger level. At the same time, it is also important to see the diaspora as more than a discrete community. We need to think about the extensive networks they have built and find ways to connect more effectively to their wideranging expertise and resources, in order to help move the Caribbean forward.

Our Youth: In the Caribbean, our young people are not the future—they are the present. Young people make up 60-65 percent of the population in most

Caribbean countries. This is a challenge and a gift. We need to involve, engage and see young people as essential partners in realising a Caribbean vision. We need to work with young people as agents of change, helping to shape the direction we take toward 2050. We need to invite and empower them to build the systems they are expected to function in, whether it be the university, business sector or government. For us to realise a vision for the Caribbean by 2050, young people need to be engaged in real dialogue, as drivers of development, not as a lost generation we lecture.

Innovation: The Caribbean’s greatest asset is our people. We are an extremely creative people, with a wonderful spirit that attracts the world to experience and share in our culture. The future for countries like ours is to leverage our human capital. Since we cannot produce on a large scale, we have to encourage innovation.



No Longer Business as Usual

I firmly believe that The University of the West Indies must spark a

renaissance to renew the Caribbean enterprise.

Given the challenge of unemployment facing our countries, especially among our youth, we need to shift focus to entrepreneurship and economic diversification. For example, given its rich experience in the energy sector, Trinidad and Tobago can become a centre for innovation in energy. Since renewable resources are the energy source of the future, we need to establish centres for research and development in renewable energy throughout the region. Denmark has 5.6 million people and they have developed some of the most sophisticated technology for wind turbines. They have found a niche. We could create our own niche in products, services and technical expertise coming out of the Caribbean. In these and other areas, The University of the West Indies (UWI) can become the hub for innovation in the region.

Becoming West Indian The University of the West Indies has an influence disproportionate to its size, not only in Trinidad and Tobago, but also throughout the region. One of the


Caribbean’s biggest and perhaps still-underused assets are its regional institutions. In my view, the most successful example of regional collaboration is The University of the West Indies. How can The UWI bring young people’s voices to the fore as assets for their communities and countries? How can our University contribute to a new focus on creativity and entrepreneurship, particularly among young West Indians? For those of us growing up in the Caribbean in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when we thought about university, we thought about The University of the West Indies. It was the place to be. At the time, UWI scholars were writing articles in the newspapers that had a profound influence on me, given my interest in government and development. This was the period of the Grenada revolution, the Cold War was at its zenith, and the Sandinista Revolution was exploding in Central America. It was a time of rich debate and The University of the West Indies, particularly the Students’ Guild, was integral to that debate. As a university student in the early ‘80s, my expectations were not only met, they were exceeded.

The UWI gave me an understanding of the Caribbean. It made me a West Indian. I met people from all over the Caribbean, because of the mixture of the student population and the great deal of cross-fertilization among the campuses. We had so many Caribbean people living on Milner Hall, Canada Hall, and in private accommodations in St. Augustine. My growing Caribbean ethos was reinforced by becoming involved in the Student Guild. I had the opportunity to travel across the region as a student representative and was able to establish lifelong friendships in the region that I carry with me to this day. The UWI fostered a curiosity in the outside world and the place of the Caribbean in that world. Without my time there, I would not be the person that I am today. I owe a special debt of gratitude to The UWI. I firmly believe that The University of the West Indies must spark a renaissance to renew the Caribbean enterprise.

Caribbean Future: Resilient or At Risk? A Caribbean renaissance depends on our ability to function as a unified region. We cannot survive if we function on the global stage as small, individual nation-states in an increasingly complex and changing world. A new direction for the Caribbean will only come into play, if we, as Caribbean people, advocate for it. Beyond convenience and expedience, we need to create a shared vision, around which we, as West Indians, can rally. This will require government, business, civil society, the labour movement, young people, and our development partners, to work together toward a new vision for the Caribbean by 2050. The intellectual hub of the Caribbean, The University of the West Indies, has an important and defining role to play. We are at a turning point in our history. The time to act is now. Let us seize the opportunity.


Deodat Maharaj was appointed Deputy Secretary-General (Economic and Social Development) of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, in 2014. Prior to that, he was Chief (Division for Afghanistan), former Chief of Staff, and Chief (Regional Programmes), at the United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, in New York. He has worked in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Guyana and Tanzania, and has served at the Caribbean Development Bank in Barbados. Mr. Maharaj was Head of the Secretariat on the Ministerial Council for Social Development with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. He holds an MSc in International Affairs from Florida State University, as well as degrees in Government (The UWI) and Law (London University), and a postgraduate diploma in International Affairs from The University of the West Indies. http://thecommonwealth.org/




30 Days in the

Heart of Tokyo The UWI-Sophia University Exchange by Jeanette Awai



them with everything from attaining their VISAs to what to expect in Tokyo. The students took it upon themselves to create a WhatsApp chat group since they knew little of each other before the programme. The first time the entire group met was their first night in Japan. With little sleep, 14 hours of flying behind them and school the next day, they could feel themselves already changed, not only by Japan, but also by each other. Dane Miller, Computer Science major at The UWI Mona campus with a soft spoken demeanour, spoke about how his classes at Sophia University, specifically the Media and Contemporary Issues in Japan class that took him out of his comfort zone, “We had to interview Japanese people on the street and in my field, Computer Science, we never do anything like that and at first it was strange.” Educational exchange is at the core of the UWI-Sophia initiative which is part of a wider cooperation programme between CARICOM and Japan. The initiative also includes a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in September 2015 by



did not believe the email at first, “Congratulations, you’ve been selected to go to Japan for an exchange programme... I thought it was spam or something, then I got the call and I was so excited!” Final year student, Kimberly Browne of The UWI St. Augustine campus captured the sentiments of seven other UWI business and tech students from each of The UWI’s four campuses who were selected to participate in a one-month exchange programme at Sophia University. The initiative which is funded by the Japanbased Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC), seeks to promote international cooperation and deepen mutual understanding between Japan and various countries, but in the words of Aaron Boodram, The UWI St. Augustine, final year student in Management Studies, “we’ll get to that later, there’s so much to tell.” Embarking on the trip of a lifetime requires some legwork and all the students agreed that they were fully prepped for the experience thanks to APIC who helped



30 Days in the Heart of Tokyo


UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and President of Sophia University, Takashi Hayashita. The MOU is aimed at improving bilateral relationships that will enhance research and education at both institutions. It is also intended to expand the spectrum of academic collaboration and cultural awareness between the universities. The students also took classes in Japanese Business and Economy and Japanese Language under a pedagogical model where anecdotal stories were encouraged. Raphaella Colahar, The UWI Mona Computer Science student noted that she heard perspectives from across the world including, students from the Pacific Islands, Australia, China, Korea, Indonesia and Germany. Quinn Weekes, Economics and Finance final year student at The UWI Cave Hill talked about how being in such an international environment made what was familiar to him, strange like seeing criminals on the covers of daily newspapers, “In other countries, that’s a total no no.” Economics and Political Science Cave Hill student, Shekira Thompson remarked on how being in the developed world made her appreciative of how far smaller developing states like the Caribbean have come. “In Japan, they tackle the same issues like us—poverty, mental health issues, gender inequality and in Barbados, we actually do


a better job with regards to women receiving equal pay—there’s not a huge glass wall for females to break whereas in Japan they are now figuring that out. That inspired me to make me want to do my part to continue development in smaller islands, to help and improve people’s lives.” Outside of the classroom, the learning continued with field trips illustrating their daily lessons in places like the National Bank and Parliament. The students were fully immersed into Japanese cultural activities like calligraphy classes, participating in a traditional Japanese drum circle and acquainting themselves with Japan daily. Shekira was awed by Japan’s “seamless stitching of old traditions and forward thinking... everything they do they do with a respect for history and technology.” All the students talked about the great food as they tasted a bit of everything, sushi, Japanese curry, udon noodles...”I ate octopus balls!” Dane shared, “They have nothing like that in Jamaica.” Vice-Chancellor Beckles described the partnership with Sophia University as being clearly aligned with his leadership vision for The UWI as a Caribbean university saying, “Establishing strong linkages with partner institutions, especially those with similar strategic thrusts as ours, augers well for enabling the



ophia University, a pioneer

level of economic turnaround and wealth generation that the Caribbean so desperately needs. With partners like Sophia University, we are taking UWI closer to becoming a global brand of education”. Ricky Haynes, Banking and Finance student from The UWI Open Campus in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, echoed these sentiments. “As Caribbean people, it is imperative for us to be physically exposed international business and cultures and build long lasting relationships with powerful countries. In my opinion, the objectives of the student exchange programme were accomplished.” Upon returning from 30 days in the heart of Japan, things looked and felt different for Kimberly, “Japan changed the way I speak to people, it made me more outspoken.” Denecia Campbell of The UWI Open campus in Montserrat realised that she wanted to do more with her Banking and Finance degree than she initially thought after her Japan trip, “It made me want to start doing my Masters in a more economics-related field as my initial thought of economics was nothing like I thought.” After experiencing the efficiency of Japanese customer service, Quinn wants his future investment club business to mirror the same swiftness. Aaron sums it up best, “I want to go back! Everyone says the world is getting smaller, but the world huge! Yes, you can talk to someone on Skype and be friends with someone on Facebook, but there’s nothing like experiencing it in person...”

of international education in Japan, was founded in the heart of Tokyo by the Jesuits in 1913. With its motto “Sophia – Bringing the World Together” the university has been attracting faculty and students from all over the world and has grown to be one of the foremost of Japan’s private universities. It has nine undergraduate faculties with 29 departments, and 10 graduate schools with 27 programmes including humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and engineering. It has 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students and teaching staff of more than 1,000. Sophia’s student and academic exchange partners count up to 246 institutions in 49 countries. The University has been selected for the governmentled programmes, “Top Global University Project” and just recently the “Reinventing Japan Project 2015” planned to enhance the partnership with universities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bringing the World Together THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –




He has had a spectacular journey within The UWI, entering as a temporary lecturer in 1979 at the Mona Campus in Jamaica. On May 30, 2015, in a ceremony at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, he was installed as the 8th Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies.

Inaugural Address



begin, Chancellor, with an acknowledgement of a fundamental truth. It is this. Universities are not built to serve themselves. They are built and resourced to serve their communities and nations. Our beloved UWI was built and sustained in order to serve the people of the Caribbean. It is in every way a Caribbean university. We are a Caribbean nation; one people; a unified civilisation. An acknowledgement of these truths has shaped the inner and outer dimensions of my life. I am a Caribbean academic and public worker. I have dedicated my energies to the advancement of our Caribbean nation. This has been my intellectual centre of gravity. It runs through the history of our university for near four decades. I have had the honour of defining myself within the context of the history of our fine university. It is, as the late Rex Nettleford frequently reminded us, the greatest gift Caribbean people have given themselves. I began and grew as an academic within its walls, and was nourished within its generous community. I was nurtured with its spirit of community commitment and engagement. I am a disciple of its discursive personality

and has benefitted from its enormous prestige. I am grateful. I am honoured. My colleagues and stakeholders of our noble academy have asked that I serve in the role of ViceChancellor; to be the 8th person called to this office and duty. I say ‘duty’, Chancellor, because I do not believe for a moment that this function is a job; it is an act of service and duty. I am honoured to be invited. I shall do my very best with every drop of energy and sensibility that exists within my being. Chancellor, I bring to this service my specific and peculiar social construction and intellectual constitution. I am in every way imaginable a Caribbean man, not simply a man from the Caribbean. I was born and ‘brought up’ in Barbados but grew to maturity within the integrated Caribbean community of the English diaspora. At the age of 13 years I was disconnected from the nurture of my Barbados roots in the deep, rural village of Rock Hall, in the parish of St. Andrew, and thrown into the Caribbean world of inner city Birmingham where I was culturally refashioned and my identity enlarged. I had received an excellent education at the Black Bess Primary School, and the Coleridge and



Inaugural Address – Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles Parry Secondary School. They prepared me well for the English encounter. I discovered my West Indian-ness in the school and on the streets of Birmingham. Since then the Caribbean has been my inner home. I returned home from home, via Jamaica, to the Mona campus of our university. I was more than an historian of the Caribbean people; I had become a product of the Caribbean. Within this context I became a servant of our university. Culturally ‘Caribbeanised’, I embraced Jamaica as I do all our societies. I erupted intellectually within the turbulence of our academic culture. Service has been my salvation. We are situated at a moment in our development that can be defined in terms of its distance from the colonial scaffold that held us captive for over three hundred years. We are preparing to enter the second seismic phase of our political independence project. We are dedicated to the advancement of our nationhood within a galloping, globalised circumstance. In this regard, as a university, we are preparing to push our region deep into this century. Our economies, more so than most, have been ravished by the global economic recession; we appear most sluggish in terms of our emergence. Our economies seem less competitive than in previous decades; a sense

of despair has appeared on the horizon. Many of the gains we have won through hard and painful struggle are being eroded; there is a growing sense of dismay among our youth. In some academic quarters it is being said that our development agenda has stalled; that we have run out of energy and ideas. Rudderless, they say, our region is adrift and bereft of a basic plan of action. In fact, some have concluded that the Caribbean is now a classic example of a stressed culture; that it is more likely to implode into social chaos than explode with creative possibilities. To all of this I say that the most effective response is to rekindle the Caribbean revolutionary spirit that has brought us thus far. To rekindle this spirit is to reenergise the intellectual struggle for self-reliance. It is to rekindle the spirit of the struggle for economic self-determination, the democratisation of economic ownership, and the quest for greater sovereignty and self-responsibility. The Caribbean spirit of self-determination calls for a furtherance of the democratic spirit in which we celebrate the rise of the ordinary man and woman in the street as a citizen with energy and ideas to shape and mould the trajectories of our communities. It


Cross-section of the dignitaries attending the Installation Ceremony.


insists that we are one people, one nation, creators of a civilisation influenced by all and fertilised by many, but inferior to none, and therefore equal to all. We must, therefore, rekindle that Caribbean spirit that drove us out of bondage-slavery, indenture, and colonialismand which possesses that which is required to fashion a 21st consciousness that is focused, determined and selfdirecting. Chancellor, I am a social product of the material poverty that has been the lot of the majority of our citizens. Like many gathered here today, and those listening to this broadcast, I grew as a child surrounded by the threat of hunger. I walked to school with my bare feet upon the ground. I understood first-hand the pain of crippling poverty. I am, as Martin Carter says, a son from the nigger yard of yesterday. But embedded within my tender mind and emerging mentality was a clear, crystallised truth: that the poverty of my person had nothing to do with the richness of my mind. There was no fear in my interior that the scarcity around me could cripple my consciousness. It never entered my mind that the absence of money could contain the content of my imagination. I knew and felt keenly that I was from tested, sturdy stock, being raised by men and women who understood that the future was ours to grasp. I was born within a family possessed of the philosophy that better will come, and that we shall overcome. After 40 years of labour in Britain, my parents have returned to their community. My mother is here. My father, just one cricket stroke away from his century, is here. I am honoured to be their son. I am grateful that they are here. I am here because they have brought me here. The commitment to education within our family knew no boundaries. Making something of oneself out of nothing seemed at first a hard proposition. But at an early age, I realised the extent to which I possessed everything a child needed. I had good health, was invested with a love of reading and learning, and possessed of the philosophy of self-improvement. I have five loving sisters – Silma, Belinda, Lorna, Barbara, Sonia, and an older brother, John. Belinda and John are here tonight. I am the middle child of seven, the perfect location from where to receive love from above, and to pass it on below.

My grandparents who raised me while my parents were preparing a place across the seas were as perfect in their parenting as can be imagined. My grandmother who I loved dearly was the village preacher who taught me the importance of moral purpose and social commitment. My grandfather, a cane cutter, demonstrated daily the importance and imperative of hard work. My father, an old school master tailor, taught me the art of concentration, self-discipline and love of precision. From my mother I inherited a keen sense of social responsibility. I am what they have made me. My wife, Mary, Lady Beckles, gave me all the support in my formative years as I pursued the illusive concept of academic excellence, and the tortured passion to make a contribution to public life. It has been demanding. I am grateful for her sacrifice, her encouragement, and critically her tolerance as I tried relentlessly to master the craft of research and writing history. We have two sons, Rodney Beckles and Biko Beckles, good and handsome men. We love them dearly. They in turn have given us the joy of two grandsons, Tajari Beckles, Elisah Beckles, and a granddaughter, Hilary Beckles. To my wife, my father and mother, my brother and sisters, my sons, and my grandchildren, I say thank you for the love and the latitude that has enabled me to journey to this moment. Chancellor, we have a great deal of work to do. As a university we have our work cut out for us. Our top priority has to be working intimately with our wealth creators in order to drive our region out of economic recession. The University has to do even more than it has done in the past. This recession is a threat to all we have achieved. The rebuilding of our economic competitiveness and the achievement of economic growth must be our top agenda items. Our university was built to serve its people. If the economy, the bus in which we are travelling, has found itself in a ditch, then we will all roll up our sleeves and push and pull until it is back on the highway. I give my commitment to this service. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –


Inaugural Address – Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles The building of strong industry-academic links as a normal architecture must be addressed with urgency. All those countries that have achieved strong sustainable economic growth with social progress have done so upon platforms of industry-academic networks in which innovation and value creation were prioritised. Without good applied research there can be no innovation. Without innovation, we cannot compete effectively. We have competed successfully in past decades at the levels of prices and quality. We are not competing at the level of innovation, and herein lies that reason for our sluggish performance. The University has to be a part of the solution. Chancellor, I am calling for the deeper commitment of our University to the purpose of wealth creation. I am also calling for a deeper commitment to the uprooting of poverty in our region. There is simply too much poverty in our midst, and it is increasing across our region. We must not become adjusted to it. We must not accept it as a norm. We must see to it that every child can find a way forward to make a contribution through education. We need to dream that one day there will be at least one graduate of our universities and colleges in each and every household. These households must be deemed knowledge households. Such domestic environments must be possessed of students, graduates, and the technologies of learning – computers and internet. Only such households can be the building block of our economic development and social progress. We must not retreat, therefore, from the principles of the Caribbean dream. I am calling also for a rekindling of our intellectual engagement, a necessary condition for the second renaissance. Our thinkers must connect to the excellent work already done and use it in order to find new sources of energy. They must be unafraid, and live beyond the boundaries of intimidation. Young 21st century intellectuals must present our region with conceptual and practical choices, new and radical alternatives. They must rise with reason and restore that which matters most – our love of liberty and social justice. Within this context the education revolution that has brought us this far must be reenergised. We have a 70 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

crisis before us. In our English speaking section of the hemisphere, we have the lowest enrolment in higher education. We are at the bottom of the pile in terms of the number of citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 enrolled in higher education. In some countries, percentages are falling. But we know that the potential of a country for growth and development is a function of the number of its citizens who are participating in the world of professional development, training, and academic tutelage. We have a crisis and we must address it frontally. We have no time to waste, not now! Much of this has to do with the undeniable truth that we are still cleaning up the mess of colonialism. We must stop burying our heads in the sand and stand with resolve for the claim of reparatory justice as a development strategy to facilitate the mess cleaning. Our university was established in 1948 as a part of the process of reparatory justice within the anti-colonial context. It has a further role to play in building the discourse and creating the economic arrangement and social rightness for reparatory justice. Those who have impoverished this region must return and facilitate the orderly efforts we are making to advance. It is owed to the region. It must be requested and used as a part of the restructuring of economies and mentalities within the region. Sir Arthur Lewis, our first Vice-Chancellor made this point. In his 1938 book, “Labour in the West Indies”, he argued that the 200 years of unpaid slave labour has to be addressed as part of the region’s economic development. I am honoured to be a part of the Lewis tradition as an economic historian and Vice-Chancellor of this beloved university. This is a galloping global age, but we must be clear. The building blocks of globalisation remain the nationstate. The Caribbean nation has to find its way as one. Our UWI must more than ever function and operate as one, not four separate universities but one indivisible academy. To this restoration of the singularity of our university, my colleagues and I are committed. Furthermore, it must be a global university for our region, unrelenting in its commitment to internationally respected standards of excellence in all it does. Our graduates must continue to embrace the world and perform upon its stage. Our Caribbean story


(From left) Professor V. Eudine Barriteau, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, The UWI Cave Hill Campus; Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Chancellor and Chancellor, Sir George Alleyne.

is without doubt worthy of world narration. Already familiar with this terrain, our students, graduates, and scholars must carry the light of our literature even further and deeper into the world’s imagination. To our students I say this; we shall do all we can to hold you close to our heart because we know that you will make us all proud. To your families I say, do not despair but keep alive in your children a love of learning and we will create for them a space within which they can be nurtured and matured. Chancellor, I wish to celebrate all those who have walked this journey for our university and region. Our chancellors and vice-chancellors have left a legacy of respect for this great academy. I honour their roles and will do my best to respect and sustain their excellence. We are custodian of a great truth; that The UWI was built by men and women of the highest quality who served tirelessly without an interest in reward. In my junior years I was mentored by many colleagues. I received at Mona the most perfect mentoring. I was the rookie in an all-star department of historians that included Barry Higman, Douglas Hall, Neville Hall, Carl Campbell, Patrick Bryan, Elsa Goveia, Roy Augier, Kamau Brathwaite, and David Buisseret. But it was Professor Woodville Marshall

who guided me closely along the narrow road of respect for the methodologies of historical research and writing. In my senior years I was mentored as an administrator by Sir Keith Hunte, Sir Alister McIntyre and the Honourable Rex Nettleford. I thank them, Chancellor, as I thank you for the wisdom and dignity you bring to the affairs of our university. You, sir, are a master of the light touch, influencing all but interfering with none. We are gathered here at the Usain Bolt Stadium. This place is a performance facility for sport, a monument to a Caribbean man, a genius of his generation. Dr. Bolt has assured me that he will soon journey here to formally open this facility. I am honoured to link this event to his eternal excellence. The playing fields at the Mona campus were named in the 1960s in honour of the great Caribbean man from Barbados, Sir Frank Worrell. Today we say in response to the enlightenment and generosity of Mona and Jamaica, the compliment has been returned because we are one people, one university, one civilisation. Chancellor, it is an honour to serve our university, our people, and our region. It’s a service I do not take lightly or for granted. I am blessed to be brought hither. I shall serve to my capacity.



editor’s notes Leading Caribbean Development Caribbean people, without a doubt, possess an innate resilience and impetus. It is that resilient spirit which drove the generations before us out of slavery, indentureship and colonialism. And it is indeed the same spirit which will see us evolve and prepare for what our new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles coins “the new Caribbean development revolution”. Since his installation last May, he has been awakening and rattling the consciousness and sub-consciousness of all our critical stakeholders, recruiting us all into a movement ready to take charge. He reminds us of a fundamental truth about universities: “that they are not built to serve themselves, but rather, built and resourced to serve their communities and nations”. Acknowledging this truth, we recognise that The UWI has a huge responsibility to set the trajectory for the future of the Caribbean. And although we have been doing much work over the past 68 years, the education development revolution that has brought us this far into our existence, must be re-energised to confront the new challenges ahead. We are set here in a time and space that demands that the Caribbean chart a new global discourse and path for itself. It is an environment where “business as usual” will only lead us to certain defeat. Around the world, countries are grappling with the development challenge of how

to scale quality education for their children and youth. Resting at the heart of a nation’s progress is quality higher education. And, by extension, the progress of our entire Caribbean region depends on it. Vice-Chancellor Beckles has mapped out a plan – a “triple A” strategic vision – alignment of industry and academia for wealth creation, expansion of access, and alertness to global opportunities. Originating from this vision, will rise an army of initiatives aimed in turn at raising up a more activist University, committed to helping achieve the Caribbean economic and social renewal that takes us out of this recessionary cycle and drives sustainable growth and wealth generation in the region. In this issue of The Pelican we open a dialogue about the Caribbean development revolution. We also feature some of the initiatives that have already been set in motion to enable future growth. With new leadership comes new expectations. It was one of the greatest world leaders, Nelson Mandela, who said that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. Without a doubt, it will be our choice to lead us in this Caribbean development revolution.

Dr. Dawn-Marie De Four-Gill Editor & Creative Director

Profile for UWI St Augustine

UWI Pelican Issue 14  

UWI Pelican Issue 14  


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