Support food security
TOMORROW BARBADOS JOINS with the rest of the world in observing World Food Day as part of the global effort to bring greater awareness to end hunger. For this country, it ought to be much more than a one-day focus on fighting hunger alone, but more so on highlighting the importance of agriculture as being on the “priority list” for developing a sustainable economy.
Most Barbadians need to be a part of the solution in growing agriculture. This requires a major input from not only the large farmers but also the small ones, and especially those at the micro level – backyard farmers. The latter have long played a major role in the sector and must be encouraged to continue, particularly in the area of food crop production.
This country has had mixed fortunes with agriculture in recent years and while it is clear that the sugar industry will no longer dominate, there is still an optimistic future for sugar given its wider scope. But there is much more to agriculture than sugar.
The concerns about food security and rising food prices have highlighted why there must be unequivocal Government support for the agricultural sector. This is particularly true even in the face of international and regional treaties which call for the collapsing of any protection of the sector. The reality is that all governments fiercely defend their agriculture; we must be no different.
Agriculture is a business like any other. It requires an enabling environment which will depend on public and private investment, access to land, water and markets; use of new technology, and protection against theft and even spoilage. Farmers, big and small, must become far more efficient if they are to boost production and enhance their welfare.
Agriculture’s links to the tourism, trade and professional services must be developed further while the sector has the potential to contribute meaningfully to the expansion of agro-processing, reduction of imports and encouragement of innovation. More importantly, farming can be a job creator, which is ever so crucial at this time.
As a small island developing state, Barbados cannot escape the issue of the impact of climate change on agriculture. Weather and agriculture are inextricably linked, requiring farmers and the wider agricultural community to participate in the ongoing conversation about climate change.
The debate cannot be an esoteric one. Our farmers, particularly those with family-owned farms, have to be resilient and also have to become adept at managing risks.
Despite the deficiencies, we must not take agriculture in Barbados for granted. For all those who make feeding this nation possible, we have an obligation to give them our fullest support.