It has been said that Barbados should be investing more in the area of agricultural research, in an effort to reduce the negative effects of climate change on our local food production levels, to advance us in the area of food security and to further boost our economy.
The view is that the world is now faced with a climate change phenomenon, which will ultimately impacts on food production. Already, we can see signs of climate change’s negative effects, especially in the area of drought, which has severely affected Barbados in the past. As such, we should take the bull by the horns and conduct more research, to see just how we can mitigate against its effects and fix any potential problems we can, in advance.
Now we cannot deny that the agricultural sector can be a potential catalyst to the sustainable economic growth of the country. As such, Government, private sector producers and civil society alike, must work together to bring greater innovation to the agricultural sector and greater investment must also be made in it. Specifically, in relation to agricultural research, we need to investigate how the agricultural sector can be used to develop new products for export on the manufacturing side, which can give us more foreign exchange. For example, there has been much talk around developing the indigenous Barbados Black Belly Sheep to its maximum and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has pledged to place greater focus on this area in particular, to see how it can diversify its product offerings for greater profit. This is certainly an area we can exploit. We can do additional research to see how foreigners may respond to luxury goods produced from the skin of the Black Belly Sheep and we can work to ensure that our local brand is pushed, in as many territories as possible. Yes, we have heard of a few business ventures here and there, but we need something more concrete.
We can also investigate how we can use the agricultural sector to produce more non-traditional crops. There are so many examples from across the world that we can replicate or tweak, so we can cut down on food importation. We can utilise greenhouse technologies in the process, aquaponics and hydroponics and the list could go on. We do have some agencies working behind the scenes to advance agricultural research in a number of potential revenue generating areas and we tip our hats to them. Apart from our local Ministry of Agriculture which has been conducting research with a number of food crops for better outcomes, we have the Barbados based unit of the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI), which has been doing some good work.
The CARDI Barbados Unit has been working on some really good projects. These include the hot pepper improvement programme, which involved the breeding and maintenance of hot pepper germplasm, the determination of possible sources of viral infection and the deployment of newer technologies, to optimise production. CARDI Barbados has also been involved in livestock research and development. In collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Government of Barbados, the Unit has been mapping the genetic characteristics of the Barbados Blackbelly sheep. It is also involved in the characterisation and evaluation of local feed resources. Even as we invest more in various areas of agricultural research, we may potentially stumble upon revenue generating streams within the agricultural sector, that can place us on the map and in the future, bring greater economic stability to this little rock.