Female Farmers in Jamaica See Serial Thefts of Property During COVID-19 Pandemic

Female farmers in Jamaica are experiencing a series of thefts of their livestock, equipment, and crops from their farms by criminals who are selling them to the black market. According to Thomas Reuters Foundation, authorities attribute the crimes to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The thefts, known as praedial larceny, costs the country about $7 billion in Jamaican currency, or $48 million annually. 

The thefts have disproportionately affected women farmers, who receive little to no help financially to secure the very little land they own to farm and bear the brunt of domestic work, limiting the amount of time they have to work on their farms. This creates an opportunity for thieves to take entire livestock and property.

Assistant Commissioner of Police with the Jamaican Constabulary Force Gary Welsh told the Thomas Reuter Foundation, “Women feel vulnerable and thieves prey upon them because they are less likely to retaliate.” The thefts have turned violent with 13 farmers reportedly killed this year.

There is an urgent call for the government to invest in helping farmers protect their property. They have answered that call thus far by arresting more than a few dozen thieves this year, with a promise to enforce prison sentences and issue steep fines. 

The government also introduced a tracking system for farmers who would register with the government, tattoo all of their livestock, and show receipts from sales, all in an effort to trace a farmer’s property. About 220,000 farmers have registered, with more than 76,000 of those farmers being women.

The crisis has women resorting to sleeping on their farms to protect it, which only enhances danger.

The Realist Woman’s take:

This is a scary and devastating reality for all farmers in Jamaica. But as we learned, female farmers are disproportionately affected. They are left vulnerable with no helpful options to truly protect their property or themselves.

COVID-19 isn’t the reason why thieves are doing this because they’ve been committing these crimes for a while. But the pandemic has ramped up the rate of thefts that are taking place. 

This is another example of a country needing the government to step in to protect their workers. They need to do more to protect these farmers, whose work is essential not just for their livelihoods but for the lives of everyone who eats the food they grow.