Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yes, We Have No Bananas

The essence of praedial larceny is simple: it is stealing someone else's agricultural produce or livestock. You know it when you see it. So, when I read this morning that the Barbados Agricultural Society is hoping to use electronic means to deter praedial thievery (see Sunday Sun report), I wondered if they were considering the plight of people like me. I am no farmer, but a mere urban dweller. I am someone who loves the land and I have grown fruit and vegetables in some of the world's best known cities. I also have a father who has grown produce and raised livestock, mainly for his own sustenance, in rural and urban settings alike in Jamaica and England and now again in that crime infested island of Jamaica. Where we differ is that no one has ever stolen his crops. Now I have to live the scar of that crime on my life.

I had two banana trees planted in my little piece of land in St. Michael, and I had shown my little daughter how they were growing well, and faster than her. I had travelled recently and wondered why I had not seen any bananas on the trees as yet. Then it dawned on me. The trees are adjacent to a wall and there is a large garden on the other side. That garden is safeguarded by extensive barbed wire, presumably to keep out thieves. It is also the home of a senior legal person. Imagine my despair, therefore, to find a stump hanging over the wall from my banana tree when I examined it a few days ago; a freshly cut stump at that, dangling into my neighbour's garden.

Now, true, for the legal eagles this is all circumstantial and then there is the issue of what to do about a neighbour's plants or livestock that stray beyond their boundaries. All of that is nice to discuss, but simple things need simple minds. The bananas belonged to me and my family. Slice the matter anyway you like: we tended and cared for them to bring us satisfaction in some way. We did not raise them for our neighbour's benefit. What of the harm the hanging fruit was causing? Give me a break! If my legal neighbour has a case to deal with that concerns praedial larceny I hope that he had not recently dined on my bananas for that to stick in his craw.

We live in a neighbourhood with lots of monkeys and parrots and other birds, all of which like bananas and guavas and mangoes to differing degrees. I have seen monkeys in the house trying to get food. I have seen birds pecking at the mangoes and guavas. But I have never seen any of these wild things wielding a cutlass. My mind boggled when a legal friend or two suggested that the monkeys might have been to blame. I shuddered as I could not easily imagine being mugged at gunpoint by a monkey. Mind you, better that than the image of a swooping flock of parrots wielding cutlasses.

Now, the sanguine part of me says that if someone needed those bananas more than me, for food or income, then so be it. But I still have my disappointment to handle, and my daughter's. I will manage her disappointment and I will give her the life lessons. The message I will give her will be clear: stealing is wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Have a blessed day.


acox said...

ithink any vegetation hanging directly over a neighbours property by law is rightfully theirs. now if the bananas are on your property than the person is a theif. now i have a suggestion use surveillance camera to catch.won't it be funny if it is mR. BIGSHOT

acox said...

i think that if the bananas where hanging over the person property legally they are theirs.but if they were on your side then that's another story.i suggest you use surveillence video to catch the thief. i hope it wasn't mr.bigshot your neighbour.

Sargeant said...

I was laughing as I read about your loss, if you don’t have any coconut trees to worry about count yourself lucky. Looks like the old maxim “good fences make good neighbours” did not work for you. I think Jeff Cumberbatch wrote on one of the blogs that the maxim “possession is nine-tenths of the law” is meaningless so although you had possession of the Banana tree the hand was elsewhere and the poor monkeys unable to speak for themselves get blamed for everything. You can tell yourself that whoever wanted those bananas needed them more than you did and judging from the bananas on my kitchen table they won’t last very long.

As B Obama would say it was a “teachable moment” and I hope you taught your daughter a thing or two about human nature.

Dennis Jones said...


My daughter did the teaching herself, saying "They did not even ask." She was rightly upset at her loss, but she also added "Maybe they were just hungry."

A part of me says that even if you took the overhang it would be alright to offer a few to the owner. When that does not happen I tend to suspect that pure greed is at work.

I think back to the lovely Julie mangoes that I saw overhanging the ABC highway all summer. Maybe some other passers by took advantage.

At least I can look forward to another crop. "I can fish." Focusing on the positive.

Dennis Jones said...

@acox, I don't think I'm a big enough producer to warrant investing in electronic surveillance.