EDITORIAL: Push local food planting initiative

IT was said earlier this year, that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security would be encouraging Barbadians to get involved in the Barbados Food Planting Initiative, to ensure greater food security and food sovereignty for this nation going forward.

Word of this came from Chief Agricultural Officer, Lennox Chandler, at the time. He was quoted as stating that, “Food sovereignty goes beyond food security. It speaks to the issue of being in charge of the food that you consume, how it is grown, how it is processed, what it is sprayed with, [and] if it is culturally relevant to us.”

He meanwhile spoke of the need to ensure that people utilise foods which are healthy, and which are processed and treated in a manner whereby any deleterious effects or harmful chemicals would be reduced to a minimum. As such, he noted that the Ministry will be encouraging Barbadians to take charge of the foods they consume, by growing their own food.

Barbadians therefore are being encouraged to utilise the smallest pieces of land available to them to plant around their own homes, under the Barbados Food Planting Initiative. This is by no means a new concept, as it has been pushed by numerous persons in the field of agriculture, healthy food advocates, politicians and the like. Whilst it can be argued that there are some citizens planting up parcels of land around their homes, or even half barrels or other containers that can hold crops, the idea is for more Barbadians to come on board.

Independence is the perfect time to reintroduce and reinforce this concept of home-grown foods, as at present, we are consuming too many imported, processed, unhealthy foods to our detriment. Perhaps some form of incentive can be given as well to those who take the lead in communities to push a local food planting drive, though some may argue that eating healthy and remaining healthy is incentive enough.

Meanwhile, it has been said that there is need for farmers on a whole and also householders who can, to plant more root crops that can withstand catastrophic events and provide food for Barbadians long after a devastating event takes place in the country. Though we are coming to the end of the hurricane season this month, we have ample time to get prepared for the next season. It is said that root crops are fairly resilient and in the event of a severe flooding event, a few days after, persons can still go to the field and harvest crops such as yams, sweet potatoes, cassava or eddoes, since they have the ability to stay in the soil and still be edible, even after heavy rain. Thus, we should be focusing on ensuring that we plant more root crops, to ensure food security, even ahead of next year’s hurricane season.

We can also get our students on board by having a food planting initiative in schools for the young ones, that will see them replicating some of what they have learnt in their educational institutions. They in turn can teach the adults how to utilise their limited resources for greater gains. Those who are at the secondary or tertiary level may be able to take it up a notch and even invest in greenhouse technologies to grow their crops, as some schools are already undertaking these initiatives, which students should be encouraged to replicate.

If we plant more home-grown foods, we can eat more home-grown meals and reduce our high food import bill, whilst ensuring that we live healthier and more self-sufficient lives.

Barbados Advocate

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