While he was Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, showed off his kitchen garden at home and took a public beating in some quarters for it.
At the time, he admonished Barbadians to stretch their dollar by supplementing their grocery list with things they grew on their own, while pointing out that he used his own garden as a source of food and relaxation.
For sure, on a Prime Minister’s salary he really did not need a kitchen garden to top up his “larder” but his point was important then and is even more vital now.
In similar vein, for all his years promoting local agriculture and particularly when he held the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture, then Senator Haynesley Benn also repeatedly urged Barbadians to make full use of their backyards to grow some of what they eat.
Benn has always been a strong proponent of the tyre garden, a container which allows the average householder to grow almost anything the big farmers do, just on a much smaller scale, and since being overlooked by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart since the last general elections Benn has continued to encourage community organisations and individuals to return to backyard farming.
Today, we wish to urge Barbadians to heed the advice of Arthur and Benn. Avoid the urge to dismiss what they say simply because you may be of a different political persuasion. We suspect that given what appears to lie ahead for many in this country, the mental and physical therapy that comes for “dirtying your hands in the soil” as well as the savings that will accrue from growing more of what you eat will turn out to be anything but a fad.
The country is still largely clueless about how the Freundel Stuart Administration will cut its expenditure by more than $400 million but it must be clear that such a deep cut will have a wide impact across the country. Jobs are going to be lost — we don’t know just yet how many!
What we do know is that since no man is an island, every job lost will have a ripple effect on families and therefore the depression, uncertainty and fear will be manifested in a lot more than those who receive “green papers”.
Being able to manage utility bills, rents and mortgages and other household expenses on vastly reduced income might be eased somewhat if fast growing crops like cabbage, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower and even broccoli, along with a range of herbs, are supplied in each family’s own backyard.
A diet that includes a lot more of these foods should certainly improve health, thereby reducing the need to visit to the doctor as pften.
And while covenants might prohibit the rearing of chickens in our heights and terraces, a return to growing ten or 20 chickens in the yard in conditions that do not create a nuisance for neighbours may become advisable for many a household.
Mass job losses tend to stir the entrepreneurial (or survival) spirit in those impacted, but with reduced purchasing power all around not everyone may want to or be able to purchase the new products and services that will inevitably spring up. Taking care of your own household food needs may therefore rest on growing much of what you require.
As we said at the start, and as has been said repeatedly by Barbadians of note in recent weeks, Barbadians can expect to have to sail in some very rough seas ahead. Hope for survival will come from knowing that you have been able to put on and buckle up your life vest. That vest may very well be found in your backyard.