by Julie Carrington
As more Barbadians adopt healthy food choices complemented by an exercise regime as the key to longevity, the National Coordinator of the United Nations Development Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, David Bynoe, is making the case for the full scale use of organic farming as a healthier alternative.
He outlined the benefits of this farming technique recently during the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport /Ministry of Agriculture Food, Fisheries and Water Resources Management workshop on Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Restaurant Sub-Sector. It was held at the Dining Club Conference Centre, Building No.11, Newton Industrial Estate, Christ Church.
He explained that monoculture, coupled with the use of synthetic pesticides, had a negative impact on the environment.
“Most of the pesticides used are in the form of nitrates which leach into the water system. In fact, some of the [pesticides used in farming] are carcinogens and have a negative impact on one’s health,” he said.
Given this situation, Bynoe proffered the view that organic farming was a holistic management system that promoted and enhanced the agro-ecosystem health, promoted biodiversity and a healthy soil biological cycle.
Underscoring the importance of organic farming and link between healthy soils, the coordinator, who is also an environmental economist, said in the temperate countries like the United Kingdom, the organic matter content stood at five per cent. In Barbados on the other hand, he lamented that the organic matter content in most soils was less than one per cent.
Bynoe pointed out that healthy soil and the use of organic fertilisers were important elements in organic farming and he urged restaurateurs to utilise these crops in the preparation of their meals.
He added: “It is important that restaurateurs understand the production process and the initiatives used during that process so that when you buy organic products, you know what you are buying.”
The GEF SGP official said that Barbados could be a major producer of organic crops and pointed to the national benefits to be derived.
“When comparing organic agriculture to conventional methods, one would realise that there are significant national benefits to be derived. Conventional methods lead to increased soil degradation; soil erosion; loss of biodiversity; it also causes water, air and soil pollution problems; and there is increased soil erosion. It [conventional methods] also contributes to negative greenhouse gas emissions and can cause inefficiencies in energy use.
Bynoe added: “Organic farming on the other hand, reduces erosion significantly; promotes biodiversity; preserves water and soil quality; reduces the emission of greenhouse gases; reduces contamination and conserves genetic biodiversity, So, Barbados stands to reap significant environmental dividends from organic agriculture.”
He produced figures to highlight the importance of using organic produce. He revealed that in 2008, the Organic Monitor estimated the value of organic products sold worldwide as US $50.9 billion — an increase of US $25 billion over the 2003 figure.
“If you look at the direct benefits to restaurateurs, going organic attracted a diverse consumer base that was educated about the benefits of eating organic produce. In fact, 80 per cent of United States-based consumers would pay more to eat at an environmentally friendly restaurant. Of this figure, 60 per cent would pay more than 10 per cent and a further 10 per cent would pay more than 20 per cent and that’s significant,” Bynoe surmised.
He said the incorporation of organic products on restaurant menus would also lead to an enhanced green image, a reduction in the production of meals with the use of fossil fuels and a reduction of wastage.
Bynoe said the organisation could provide between US $50 000 to $100,000 in grant funding for projects that focused on biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, persistent organic pollutants and integrated ecosystem management.
In order to qualify, he urged restaurant owners to form a cooperative and explained: “We cannot work directly with businesses but, we can work with associations to provide the funding provided that the projects were centred on the four focal points. And we need to [create a] link so that we can identify a pilot project to mainstream sustainable production and consumption.
“So, I am throwing it out to you [restaurateurs] because although I see it as a viable option, it requires civil society to initiate it and embrace it,” Bynoe emphasised.
Against this background, it is hoped that organic farming becomes a feature of the local agriculture sector and is embraced by consumers.