Anguila island

E. F. Schumacher Society, Newsletter, Summer 1996

Anguilla: Small, Beautiful, and Complex

Leopold Kohr hoped that the Caribbean island of Anguilla would develop into a self-managed city-state, an elegantly small nation amidst clumsy giants. In the late 1960s he worked in an advisory capacity with the island's revolutionary leaders.

The most important of these leaders was Ronald Webster. As a boy in the 1930s Webster left his home of Anguilla to work on a prosperous St. Marten's farm just seven miles away. Anguilla was poor. The soil was hard to work, the vegetation sparce, and fresh water in short supply. Years of drought caused great hardship for the island's predominantly black residents. Anguilla's largest export was its own people, seeking jobs elsewhere.

Webster proved an industrious and capable worker, winning the respect and love of the childless Dutch couple who owned the farm, but he dreamed of returning to Anguilla. Upon the death of his employers he inherited the valuable St. Marten's property. Webster sold the farm and moved back to Anguilla in the mid 1960's determined to help his people with his newly acquired wealth.

Anguilla was a colony of Great Britain administered from the larger island of St. Kitts. Webster's first concern was to establish road, water, and electric systems for the thirty-five square mile island. He intended to use his own money to leverage British investment but found that funds allocated for Anguilla infrastructure were diverted in St. Kitts, keeping his people impoverished.

In 1967, with British agreement, St. Kitts called for independent statehood in association with Nevis and Anguilla. The Anguillans preferred colony status over dominance by St. Kitts and therefore refused to participate in the new state. Under the leadership of Ronald Webster they were beginning to experience pride in their own heritage, landscape, and customs. They were not prepared to compromise that pride under the strong arm of St. Kitts.

So began a determined but peaceful revolution, with an appeal to the United Nations for the establishment of nation status and a separate flag for Anguilla. Anguilla's struggle for its own emerging identity captured the hearts of many people, including Leopold Kohr, mentor of E. F. Schumacher and author of the decentralist classic The Breakdown of Nations. Kohr met with Webster and other leaders of the revolution to map a course for greater self-sufficiency for the island.

Much has been accomplished towards that goal. Anguillans now have their own democratically elected government with teachers, police force, health department, postal service, and environmental affairs department. Webster's wife, a renowned seamstress on the island, made the uniforms for the first Anguillan police force, distinguishing them from the earlier St. Kitts force. The majority of land in Anguilla remains locally owned. By law, no more than 10 percent will ever be held by nonresidents. The island-wide road and electric and phone systems are now fully operational. Rain water is gathered in rooftop cisterns and solar panels are used to heat it.

Webster established an Anguillan-owned and -operated bank so that money generated on the island would recirculate there in local investments. With the bank's help many Anguillans have started their own thriving small businesses. Supported by local administration officials local craftspeople organized a cooperative market to sell their products. The curriculum in the schools now reflects Anguillan history and culture rather than that of Britain or St. Kitts. The newly formed National Trust is identifing and protecting ancient Amerindian sites, purchasing and restoring historic buildings, and with the help of Massachusetts botanist Mary Walker is working with local self-trained botanists to inventory the plants of the island and identify their most sensitive habitats.

Anguillans have prospered from a thriving tourist economy, but one that is consciously restrained to reduce impact on the tiny island. Leopold Kohr noted that rooms in resort areas were not filled. When he asked why the owners did not lower the per night charges to draw more people, he was delighted to hear that they did not want more people. The pricing helped regulate numbers while still producing a fair income for Anguillans.

Though much has been acheived since Webster's return home, much that was planned has not been achieved. For example, Kohr's initiative to launch an island-wide currency, the Anguillan Silver Liberty Dollar, failed in the press of events following the revolution. Webster bemoans the fact that the children have no memory of conditions before the revolution and so do not properly appreciate the spirit of achievement of the Anguillan people.

We invited Ronald Webster to tell his own story of Anguilla at the Decentralist Conference June 28th through 30th at Williams College. He is still considering the request. It is a story of careful nurturing at many levels-land ownership, finance, education, ecology, health, government, enterprise, and appropriate technology-all developing with a new spirit of commitment to the people of a region and the carrying capacity of its natural resouces. Each of us can point to an innovative project where community effort solved a difficult local problem. But it takes more than one project to build an economy of permanance. E. F. Schumacher Society staff would like to dedicate this newsletter to the people of Anguilla, who, motivated by a deep love for their island community, developed, through trial and error, programs that worked together to lay a foundation for the island's renewal.


Weitere Texte von oder über Leopold Kohr siehe 1, 2, 3,
(Publized in the internet by M. Reichl 29.07.2002)




Publized on the internet 29.07.2002