Idle land for feeding
Barbados can supply itself, says expert
With 25,000 acres of arable land lying idle across the country, Barbados has the capacity to feed itself, if policymakers would be serious about food security. That is the view of the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) subregional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Dr Deep Ford.
Participating in a panel discussion on the topic Growing And Producing Our Own Food at the Grand Salle of the Barbados Central Bank last night, Ford said much could be done with the unused land to address food issues.
“Food security is an educational problem as much as it is an agricultural problem, an environmental problem or a financial problem. We have to come together with governments to form food security councils, as is the case in Antigua and Barbuda. We need to be serious,” he said.
“We need not only Government officials, but Opposition members on the councils. We need both sides of the political divide because there must be continuity in policy decisions. We do not need party policymaking to undermine policy at the change of a Government.”
Referring to the importation of maize, which is fed to animals, Ford argued that cassava flour could be mixed with wheat flour to reduce Barbados’ food import bill.
“We can feed poultry with cassava flour. Pinnacle Feeds Limited at Lower Estate, St Michael, has already indicated to policymakers that [it is] ready to buy the cassava,” Ford said.
He recalled that in 2011 and 2012, Barbados sold 70 tonnes of vegetables to cruise liners, but that deal fell through because there was no packing house in place. The United Nations official said: “Instead of expanding the business relationship with the cruise liners, Barbados actually fell back. We need to put the infrastructure in place.”
Forde further stated that policymakers needed to set targets, so that in a specific time frame they could say, with a degree of accuracy, that the food import bill would be reduced by a certain percentage.
Earlier, he had told the gathering, that included celebrated West Indian novelist George Lamming, school feeding programmes could be embraced in addressing food security.
“It is much, much more than serving a hot meal at lunchtime to children. It is about enhancing learning; it is about linking the school feeding programmes to farmers and the communities around the schools, so that they can supply products to the school,” Forde said.
“At present, we are feeding our children spaghetti and imported chicken to our children right across the region. Those food choices are very much the underlying basis of the problem we face. You can call it the food import problem. We are choosing to consume processed food from abroad. You can call it the obesity problem because of what we are choosing to consume daily,” he insisted.