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A Tribute to Vibert J. Williams

A Tribute to Vibert J. Williams

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Submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation

Vibert J Williams was born on September 27, 1951. He received his primary education at the Kingstown Anglican and the Richmond Hill Government schools. He attended the St. Vincent Grammar School from 1963-1969 where he obtained GCE O’Level passes in English Language, Mathematics, Geography, Biology, Chemistry and English Literature – an indication that he was a well rounded student.((more)) This well rounded education, at the primary and secondary school, would help to prepare him for his professional life later on.

Vibert, as he was well known, was interested in Agriculture as a career. He took his first steps in his career in agriculture in 1970 when he had an Induction Course in what was then the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture. The following year he proceeded for advanced and practical training in General Agriculture at the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (ECIAF) in Trinidad. His training at ECIAF was sponsored by WINBAN (the sub-regional agency charged with the development of the banana industry in the Windward Islands). It was a scholarship which not only provided training but also became a life shaping experience. Although he was an Agricultural Instructor in the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade 1970-1971, it was a short engagement before he started his real marriage with the Banana Industry of St. Vincent and the Windward Islands.

Vibert joined WINBAN Research in St. Lucia as a Trainee Field Officer in 1973-1974. He returned to St. Vincent as Deputy Project Manager of a Banana Replanting Project. He worked in this project until 1977, where he was appointed as Banana Development Officer under a BDD funded five years Banana Development Programme. It was an important assignment at a time when the banana industry was struggling to meet the ever changing challenges from storms, land and market which have been a characteristic of the banana industry even up to this day. The Banana Development Programme which he headed locally contributed to the rapid expansion of the banana industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He was, therefore, an integral part of the “Green Gold” revolution in St. Vincent which helped to fuel and sustain our development as a people during the time when bananas was truly king and provided sustenance and wealth creating opportunities for thousands of Vincentians. Vibert’s contribution to the development of the industry was tremendous.

Vilbert became the Assistant then Operations Manager of the SVGBA from 1982-1986. It was the position which made him a household name and legend in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In an era when there were numerous boxing plants and buying depots spread throughout St. Vincent, Vibert as Operations Manager had to ensure the weekly banana shipment took place flawlessly and seamlessly. Failure to do so would result in bananas left back, loss of vital banana money to farmers, truckers and the many ancillary persons who relied on the banana industry, for life and limb-food on the table, books for school children and other necessities of life.

This need and challenge to cover/ traverse the island every shipment, speedily and efficiently as Operations Manager, brought out his skills as a driver. Stories abound about the time – short time – it took Vibert to drive from Kingstown to Richmond and back to Georgetown. He was blessed with a strong constitution and excellent reflexes. He was an avid cricketer and footballer (goal keeper). Many were the “goat matches” in which he participated across the country.

Vibert also acted as General Manager of the SVGBA in 1987 until the time in 1991 when General Managers were recruited by the Board of Directors.

Vibert was a “people person” whose word was his bond. Nothing was too hard for him to do for a person who sought his help and support. He was also a good team player, maybe a natural result / consequence of his love for the team sports of football and cricket. He used these skills and the numerous cricket matches and “goat cooks” to mould and build camaraderie among the members of his staff. More often than not he was repaid, as a leader, with extreme loyalty and support from his coworkers.

Vibert left the banana industry in 1992 after a sterling contribution to the banana industry. It is a fitting tribute to his contribution to the Banana Industry that he remained a household name, even during his time in the USA and until his death. When the history of our country is written and we recount the importance of the banana industry and the SVGBA, Vibert J. Williams will remain an indelible part of our history and folklore in the heady days when Gold was Green in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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