Government is proposing to make at least 400 acres of land available to about 300 farmers as part of a new Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) supported scheme.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir made the revelation, saying the new farmers empowerment project would provide training and other support to participants and is to be expanded over time.
“The [Cabinet] paper is going to go to Parliament in a couple of weeks. It should have been there already, but it is definitely coming,” Weir told reporters following a recent tour of the Nature Fun Ranch in St Andrew.
He did not give details but said the aim of the programme was to “empower farmers by giving them land so that they can work”, with the BADMC taking on the responsibility of finding markets for their produce.
It is hoped that through the BADMC more local produce would find its way onto supermarket shelves, as well as in hotels and restaurants, thereby helping to lower the island’s near half billion dollar food import bill.
“All the planting that takes place would be done on a scheduled basis, based on the demand and seasonality,” the minister explained, adding that the Fun Ranch would also be involved in the programme.
In addition to land cultivation, the project would include other aspects of agriculture, including hydroponics and agro-processing.
Weir, who attended the recent Parliamentary Front Against Hunger seminar in Guatemala, said he would also invite Corey Lane, the founder of the Nature Fun Ranch, to give input into a draft document to establish a similar programme here.
Weir could not say how widespread hunger was in Barbados or to provide actual figures, but said he was aware that there were many families who were in need of basic food items, and he wanted to see that changed.
“There are several people who we know to be at the bottom of the totem pole – people who are either poor or considered even below the line of poverty. We have a lot of that in Barbados. While I wouldn’t stand here and try to give numbers I know for sure that it does exist.
“I do know for sure through my constituency office that there are several people who do come for help in terms of getting food supplies and getting children to school on mornings with breakfast, and a whole range of things. I do know for sure that we have plenty people in Barbados that are unemployed and underprivileged and therefore any project that seeks to eradicate hunger in Barbados to my mind is a project Barbados has to be involved in,” he said.
Pointing out that St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada have already established chapters of the Parliamentary Fronts Against Hunger, Weir said Barbados would be next in line.
“We had a perfect opportunity close to ten years ago to be in the top three or perhaps the first and we failed to deliver. We certainly won’t be the fourth or the fifth, but we are going to be the third,” he said.