University of West Indies Black Belly Sheep Project

The Caribbean Is One Nation.

Submitted by William Skinner
Education is one of the many tools a country uses for progress. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that it is the only tool and it must come in a defined format, which must never be changed. Education like any other national tool must undergo redefining and utilized strategically or it falls by the wayside like any other endeavour that is left to its own devices.
 A recent photo of a top university administrator, bedecked in shoes and hand bag made from the black belly sheep skin, is perhaps the most exciting news coming from within the walls of UWI for some time. We recall about four decades ago, our craftsmen were taking the skin from cows and making belts. Almost everybody had a “cow skin belt”.  If my memory serves well, I think we had some car seat covers locally made as well. They eventually disappeared because at that time they were seen more as oddities than foreign exchange earners. Nobody thought a tannery would have been a good investment. Nearly three decades ago, we were also told that the same black belly sheep produces a top class meat (mutton) that will be a world beater. Then we heard that somebody in Texas had literally hijacked the black belly sheep by some legal maneuver.
On this occasion, the folks at UWI enlisted the services of a tannery in Italy. The Black Belly Sheep Leather Project has local business mogul, Sir Charles Williams, as one the projects top supporters. In all fairness to Sir Charles, he has always promoted the economic benefits of the black belly sheep.
We  hope that this project gets off the ground and employment is found and a means of production to produce and market more than the pair of shoes for display on the front page of our papers. We have produced hundreds of university graduates in all disciplines and yet to this very day our country is poorly marketed. We have little or no competitive agro based industries. And we have allowed all our nutritious fruits to fall to the ground as we are more attracted to packaged fruit , grapes and  apples from “over way”. The fact that this project will embrace other Caribbean islands where the black belly sheep is found adds to its potential.
This project indicates that the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship of the University of the West Indies is finding its way. It clearly demonstrates that any progressive place of learning should see its role beyond what is mainly found in text books and academic arm chairing.

William Skinner is a social commentator



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