Interview by Mel Tewahade
Dwight Steen served as an American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia. After serving in Bolivia, he went on to become the Agricultural Expert at USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) in 1971.
Steen has extensive experience in irrigation, cross-pollination, agricultural product enhancement, water resources, and agricultural trade policy. He was retained in 1985 by PM Eugenia Charles to diversify Dominica out of a single product: banana.
At the time, 40% of Dominica’s GDP was banana. Now, this number is approximately 1% of Dominica’s GDP. Steen is now retired and lives in the Rocky Mountain Region.
———- Interview Begins Below ———-
Mel: Can you tell me your name and when did you start working with USAID?
Dwight: My name is Dwight Steen and I went to work for USAID in 1971. My first post and assignment was assigned to Bogata, Columbia. My area of expertise is agriculture. I did various agricultural projects from forestry to irrigation, agricultural policy, and almost anything you can think of to improve country’s agricultural sector.
Mel: When did you work for Dominica to improve their island agricultural capacity?
Dwight: Around 1984 or 85 I was stationed in Washington, DC and received a request from the Prime Minister of Dominica, Dame Mary Eugenia Charles. We were to do analysis and design a program to diversify their agricultural. I and another co-worker were assigned to do the work in Dominica and spent one month interviewing hundreds of people and coming up with a program to try to diversify away from the only product which was at the time bananas. Bananas were 40% of the GDP. A country is vulnerable if it is dependent on one single crop. A hurricane wipes out bananas in an instant. We tried to diversify into citrus, bay oil, increase coconut production for soap, cut flowers for export to the US, fruits and vegetables. I was only there for design and analysis and cannot speak for its implementation since I was assigned to another location after that.
Mel: As they go into the election season the incumbent has been in power for 18 to 20 years. What is your advice for opposition leader, like Lennox Linton, Dr. Sam Christian or Donnie Lugay. What can the good leaders of United Workers Party do to unseat such a corrupt regime?
Dwight: I do not know what their plans are but from many countries experience they need to have an outside observers like Carter Center and the United Nation who can detect if there is a fraudulent activity during election. They also need to train local citizens, in monitoring polling stations and vote count. But the most important thing is to get the people to come out and vote. You have to convince the people that their vote matters and they can make a difference and change the government.
Mel: In the case of Dominica people are leery and tired of the government as government tries to bribe people to vote for them. How can the opposition overcome this type of problem?
Dwight: The people themselves can decide when they are not in agreement with the status quo. Look what is going on in Hong Kong. The people are saying they do not want the activity of what the Chinese are implementing in Hong Kong. The same thing happened in Bolivia yesterday. The people voted 3 times for the President. The President wanted to run the 4th time in a fraudulent manner and he was forced to resign. Voices need to be heard. Let the world know that you want a change.