Peasantry in the Caribbean
• Peasantry refers to mix production where farming is done for family use and sale. • The struggle of the blacks for land was part of the struggle for freedom. Land meant ownership, moving out of a position of being owned into one of possessing property, of controlling and managing it for his own benefit. • The effort began long before he was set free. It began with the Maroons in the mountains of Jamaica , Bush Negros in Suriname and Guyana • Early peasantry started during slavery where, in order to increase the food supply slaves were provided with plots of land for cultivation. Practice varied according to the size of the territory and the nature of the land. Barbados for example could not afford to give up much land for growing food whereas Jamaica could. • The provision ground, however small, gave the slave a bread-basket of sorts. It also enabled him to practice his skills in subsistence agriculture and to learn the secrets of the new environment, the effects of the season, with times for planting different crops etc. • From the sale of the provision ground slaves had the opportunity to better themself by receiving some cash. Provision grounds allowed the slaves to feel independent even for a short period of time. • This type of farming grew up after emancipation, when freed slaves settled in areas which had previously been uncultivated, or when unprofitable plantations were broken up into smaller units. • Where land space was limited, as in St. Kitts, Barbados and Antigua, and ownership and political power were in the hands of the whites, it was almost impossible for the free black to become either a landholder or a wholly free labourer. • The land owning class took measures to prevent the newly freed slaves from acquiring land such as: making squatting punishable for three months imprisonment with hard labour. • The free people were often aided by missionaries and some landowners who purchased land on behalf of the...
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