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LEFT OF CENTRE: Food security needs a plan

Fraser Young

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The first step in taking our agriculture sector forward is, we need to set goals. We currently are spending in the range of $700 million a year on food importation.
What would that money do if we created an agricultural sector that allowed us to keep that money in Barbados? What if we used that money to provide jobs? What if we kept that money to invest in what I consider one of the most important issues of our time – food security?
We assume that there will always be food in our grocery stores. We assume that planes and ships will always come bearing the fruit of another land. We assume that the economic situation sweeping the globe somehow will not affect us. We need to start looking at our assumptions.
When you do not produce your own food, you have no control over the price, no control over the quality and no control over the quantity. We need to take control of our future.
The great news is that we have all the answers. We can develop a comprehensive, all-encompassing plan that creates wealth in Barbados the likes of which has never been seen before.
I see an island that produces 100 per cent of its food needs. I see an island that creates an industry by growing quality organic foods and products. I see an island that has the opportunity to show the world that sustainability is achievable, profitable and creates a healthier, happier society.
How do we accomplish 100 per cent food production? We need private sector investment. I know of some great success stories in agriculture and a few more projects that will be coming online in the next year.
We need to change our philosophy about how we farm. We need to look at organic farming techniques like permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics and aquaculture. This will be commonplace language in our future.
We need to grow organic. There is zero sense in growing our food if we poison our water in the process.
We need to take a look at the unintended consequences of our current farming techniques and how the chemicals that we use are poisoning our water supply. We need to look at these issues and develop a plan.
We need Government’s help too. We need to ensure that if we can grow it here, we buy Bajan first, end of story.
We cannot ask our farmers to grow crops that are being undercut at the markets by foreign goods. We need to create a more consistent flow of food from our farms and better communication so that everyone is aware of what crops are in production and what will be coming to market.
What is the next step? As a consumer, you have the final say. If you want to change the way food is grown, you have to support local organic farmers.
Go and check out Holders market this Sunday after church, go and check out the grapefruit and molasses market by Harrison’s Cave on Saturday.
Meet some of our farmers – I guarantee you will meet some of the best people on the island, eat some of the best locally prepared dishes and know that you are supporting positive change.
We all have a say in where Barbados will be in the future and we need to appreciate that agriculture is the key to our success.
• Fraser Young is a board member of the Future Centre Trust and a consultant on sustainable development.