The Ministry of Agriculture will this year launch a food planting programme, which it hopes will help cut the island’s $500 million food import bill.
However, in order for the project to be impactful, it will need the participation of virtually every Barbadian with access to sufficient land to grow crops.
“The ministry is very set on rolling out a food planting initiative, where we are encouraging anyone who has access to land to plant crops around their homes, their communities and the land we have lying idle around the island,” Chief Agricultural Officer Lennox Chandler said at a ceremony at which the government of Canada donated to the ministry, a mechanical planter and vacuum seeder, as well as a USB data micro station logger to monitor microclimates.
Chandler said the country’s food sovereignty was important because Barbadians needed “to be in control of what they eat, in terms of how it is grown, what is used to produce it and we should be able at any point in time to feed ourselves from within the four corners of this island in case some catastrophe occurs that prevents us from gaining access to food from our usual external sources”.
The donation was made through Canada’s Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) programme, which is currently under way in Barbados, as well as Dominica, Guyana and St Lucia.
The equipment will be used in a pilot project aimed at growing Irish potatoes.
“We were planning to plant last year but ran into some challenges, so we hope to get started this year. This is not the first attempt at growing these potatoes here, but the varieties we are using now will be more amenable to our environmental conditions. So we hope to have a better result this time,” Chandler explained, adding that the mechanical planter would remove “some of the drudgery” associated with the planting process here, “which will ultimately reduce labour costs and hopefully result in lower prices for the commodities produced”.
Meantime, Senior Director at the Canadian High Commission Benoit-Pierre Laramée said the project would target small farmers, particularly women.
“We hope that this equipment will help producers to increase their productivity and the quality of their products,” Laramée added.