Claude Gerald is trained in the economics of the agricultural and environmental sciences. When he became Montserrat’s Director of Agriculture in 1993, his initial pre-occupation was the re-establishment of a strong export trade in farm produce, based principally on the relatively productive, fertile lands in eastern Montserrat. Island wide expansion of his vision was commissioned soon afterwards in association with new farmers’ associations which were, by 1996, fully committed to producing for export. Scaled up planting of tomatoes, for one, went into effect with only minimal awareness of the implications of the coincident awakening of the volcano in the Soufriere Hills. But just as the new export production efforts were beginning to bear fruit, as evidenced by repeated shipments of meat, potatoes, and tomatoes to Antigua, eruption driven evacuation dictated a strengthening of agricultural efforts on the less well adapted lands of Montserrat.
Claude’s commitment to upgrading inferior agricultural lands surged after evacuation of the south and east, and with little but his faith in the proposition that all lands in Montserrat would, once appropriately managed, be just as productive as those in the well-watered, fertile east, infrastructural development of Upper Blake’s and its environs was started in earnest. The effort encompassed fencing, feeder roads, irrigation dams, and storage sheds, all of which had to be provided simultaneously with whatever resources could be made available. Eighteen years later, there can be no doubt that that initial investment to boost the productivity of the north was well directed.
A passionate advocate of natural health and sustainable living, Claude relentlessly chastises any officially endorsed degradation of the physical environment in the name of development. The use of chemicals in our food system is particularly abhorrent to him. This passion causes him to enthusiastically promote organic farming as official policy, having supported it during his 13 year tenure of the post of Director of Agriculture. It was Claude who, having endured ferocious opposition at the highest levels, still stood firm; resolute in his opposition to adopting chemical and other destructive techniques to subdue a potentially catastrophic mealy bug infestation. The organic counter-measures he employed were successful in achieving the desired effect without damaging the environment.
Claude, as an opinion columnist, is an unswerving defender of the right of the people to freedom of expression. His four year battle in the courts in defense of his publicly stated appreciation of a fired minister of agriculture remains unique as a reminder that the people need not retreat in fear when challenged and oppressed by authorities. His stand did cost him his job, but he ultimately prevailed. Claude has since sought elected office. He really believes that justice for all can and should be a reality, because he remains acutely aware of its limited availability to the majority. Inadequate access to justice testifies to a continuing prevalence of entrenched financial imbalances that are socially debilitating. Claude consults on resource management issues and currently teaches law and economics to advanced level students. He sees the reduction of ignorance as one way to protect justice to the extent that that may be accomplished, and to minimize whatever tends to detract from a state of well-being in Montserrat.