There is expected to be an increased number of players in the agricultural sector in 2019, especially in light of recent layoffs in the public sector.
This from Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, who told Barbados TODAY that there is space for all in the sector. Weir explained that his ministry was treating the possible influx as an opportunity to reshape the way Barbados views agriculture.
“We will start a programme where many of the people who have been laid off, would get an opportunity to transition into agriculture. They will be properly trained in contemporary agriculture and management of a contemporary farm,” he said, while noting that with today’s advancements in technology, a farm could be as big as a 40-foot container.
He argued that gone are the days when persons needed large expanses of land to make a decent living from agriculture. With mechanics behind emerging technologies such as aquaponics requiring specialized training, Weir revealed that Government was ready to make the initial investment on the people’s behalf.
“This is the direction we are going in now. Of course I recognize the need still for open field farming and that will also continue. But we are definitely using this as an opportunity to shape the new generation of employment and entrepreneurship,” the minister said.
One such opportunity for training is in a new Government initiative called Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED), which is going to be managed by the Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation (BADMC). The agriculture minister explained that while the programme was still awaiting Cabinet approval, its impact was expected to be far reaching.
In addition to employment, the minister is confident that the new approach to agriculture will contribute significantly to Barbados’ food security as well as to lowering the country’s hefty food import bill, the cost of which is second only to the importation of oil. He also contended that given the substantially smaller space required for these new high-yield farm techniques, the vexing concerns of praedial larceny could be finally brought under control.
“I’ve already started a process where I’m engaging people through the use of temperature control units for agriculture farms. I’ve also started the process of also engaging suppliers for community greenhouses, so that we then start to address the issues of praedial larceny,” he explained.
Weir also pointed out that given the Caribbean’s vulnerability to hurricanes and other natural disasters, it was about time that Barbados paid more attention to self-sufficiency in food.
“Our big mission really is to treat to food security. If you start to think of what happened to Dominica and our other brothers and sisters of the Caribbean region, whenever we get a climate event, you start to understand the challenge that we face in terms of getting food shipped into the Caribbean region, and certainly Barbados is no exception,” he stressed.