The World Food Summit of 1996 describes food security as:
“an ideal situation when all people, at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle.”
Barbados’ food import bill is testimony to the fact, that Barbados has relatively low food security as we import more than 80% of our food supply.
How does Barbados become more food secure? Although it sounds like a million dollar question the answer is pretty cheap! Promotion of our local, sustainable agrisupply chain.
The well-known slogan: “Buy local, eat local” or the increasingly popular “Grow well, eat well, live well – Right here in Bim” are catchy, simple to follow and the sayings hold true. Public support of local farmers will encourage them to supply the country with nutritious, high quality food on a consistent basis. This will start a chain reaction where: consumer awareness of our local food options increases, a national appreciation of the local agricultural industry will develop, the local food supply and agricultural sector becomes more stable and ultimately the nation’s dependence on foreign food imports would decrease.
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In a society where each home has a university graduate, someone must take the initiative and look beyond the fancy desk job and realize there is a world of endless possibilities in agriculture. Agriculture is no longer the hoe and fork in the field. It is innovation and technology as stated by the Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource management, Dr. David Estwick in his opening remarks at the 2015 Barbados National Agricultural Conference. He also has appealed for the youth of Barbados to see the endless possibilities in this sector. Exciting examples can be seen in countries such as Cuba who have developed and patented a novel process for extracting cane wax. This has great techno economic potential and possibilities for applications in cosmetics, textiles and the pharmaceutical industry. All this from what would be considered agricultural waste, the cane peelings. The question is what are we waiting for?
Our government has been picking up momentum by providing initiatives to work toward a revitalisation of the Agricultural industry. One such program is the Barbados Youth Farm Summer Programme for secondary students passionate about farming which is being executed in collaboration with Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Changing of mindsets is not going to be an easy task. Most parents want “better” for their children and “better” is viewed as not “slaving” in the fields like their forefathers. However, agriculture has the potential to create thousands of jobs for persons of varying skill sets and abilities. There is a place for biologists, ecologists, chemists, accountants, economists and many other disciplines in agriculture. Our country’s economic challenges do remain, however with a collective effort and investment we can revive the agricultural sector and by extension create much-needed jobs and strengthen our nation’s food security.
Witten by Shari Bowen & Katecia Thompson, volunteers of the Future Centre Trust.