If we are serious about making the most of the agricultural sector, Barbadians must “disabuse themselves” of the archaic views they have of the industry.
Chief Agricultural Officer Lennox Chandler, stated: “I am still amazed that in 2018, people still see agricultural workers as people walking around barefooted with their pants rolled up carrying a hoe, fork, chopper or bill. But contrary to that belief, agriculture is a serious business where money can be made, but you have to have the right tools, equipment, and technology to make life easier for yourself.”
So, with that in mind, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security this morning staged a Soil and Equipment Day at its Graeme Hall headquarters in association with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Canadian-based organisation PROPEL, which Chandler said “is involved in improving agricultural production and best practices, and training of farmers across the region.”
During the half-day event, farmers were introduced to some of the latest equipment available in the sector and given demonstrations on how to use it. Chandler also noted that technology has always played a significant role in agriculture. Citing an example, “If you look at sugar, first we had the windmills, then we moved to steam-powered equipment, and eventually modern sugar factories. We also introduced vacuum pan technology for crystallising the sugar, and even though some plantations still use people to reap the canes, many of them use mechanical harvesters.”
Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer Leslie Brereton, said the Ministry had embarked on a programme to map Barbados’ land to ensure that only the highest quality soil was used for agricultural purposes. “This is a four-year project financed by the Government of Morocco to the tune of $1.3 million. We are developing a map with the Town and Country Planning Department; we will take 4,000 samples which the Agricultural Research and Testing Station at Groves will analyse. This is a tremendous project in that it will allow us to plan better and save money because it will ensure that we put fertiliser on the land which needs it most.”
Brereton added that they are also working in collaboration with the Mount Gay distillery in St Lucy to make use of a sugar by-product called vinasse. He described vinasse as “a soil ameliorant” which is conducive to plant growth because it helps to build efficient and beneficial microbes within the soil. “We are currently using it in sugar production, but we are now planning to apply it to small root crops here at Graeme Hall,” he said.
Chandler concluded that in its efforts to encourage more backyard farming, the Ministry of Agriculture has just completed a handbook on the subject, which is now available to the public.