Effort on to preserve Black Belly Sheep, key food crops

Recognising the impact a national disaster could have on Barbados in terms of wiping out valuable crops and livestock, the Ministry of Agriculture is moving to set up a lab where germplasm can be stored, to ensure the continued existence of key food crops, as well as animals.

Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer, Charleston Lucas, acknowledged the above as he spoke at the launch of a project to promote sustainable livelihoods among Eastern Caribbean farmers, which is being implemented by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) in three Caribbean countries, including Barbados. The launch was held at Almond Bay in Hastings, Christ Church.

Lucas acknowledged that the Ministry is currently embracing climate smart agricultural practices and is currently evaluating a number of food crop varieties to determine which ones are the more resistant to some of the problems seen by farmers in Barbados. The aim is to bring the lab on stream and store the germplasm (living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation and other research uses) in the lab, for future use.

“So in the case of a catastrophe, a national disaster and all the germplasm for a particular crop is lost, we can go to the lab and they can take it from some of the vials and propagate it. So you haven’t lost that germplasm, which might be the one that has adapted to our conditions,” Lucas explained.
“If you look at the animals, we have the Barbados Black Belly sheep and shortly we will be setting up a lab to collect and store the semen. It can be used in trading, because everybody wants the Black belly Sheep semen, all over the world,” he noted.

“If we don’t have storage of the semen of the Black Belly Sheep and we have a natural disaster and all is lost, where will we start again? We would have to search across the island and see if persons have the material and then we would have to go back and breed them (all over again)” he further commented.

As such, he noted that the Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on this project, and may also embrace other partners, to ensure the success of the initiative. (RSM)

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