The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has launched an initiative aimed at slashing Barbados’ gigantic food import bill, transforming the economy and empowering hundreds of young farmers.
Agriculture Minister Indar Weir today announced that more than one hundred successful participants of Government’s Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) programme would be leased as many as four acres of land each in the Scotland District to plant trees, raise livestock and raise bees.
The announcement formed part of World Food Day celebrations where agriculture officials distributed the first plots of land and starter kits to assist young farmers. According to Weir, the initiative holds the potential to significantly reduce the importation of primary agricultural products and reduce the import bill. He argued that Barbadians should be given greater opportunities to choose local products.
“If we are importing potatoes, we want to produce them here, if we are importing soursop, we want to produce them here, if we are importing pumpkins, we know we can produce them here and that is where my target is and you all [participants] need to help manage this narrative now, because you are charged with the responsibility to make sure you do that which you know is right for us to target that food import bill in terms of primary agriculture,” the Minister challenged while at the Soil Conservation Unit in Haggats, St Andrew.
“Anything else in terms of preservatives, cornflakes, processed goods, etcetera, that conversation could be had when we get to agro-processing etcetera. But at this time we have to start somewhere and I believe you always need to lay a solid foundation upon which you can build…. I am building this on a solid foundation.”
While this year’s FEED programme’s cohort comprised 100 participants, Minister Weir declared the ministry was aiming for over 200 for the next intake with the goal of training over one thousand farmers in the next two and a half years.
Farmers focused on forestation have been offered three to four acre plots in the Scotland District along with 70 fruit trees to plant and cultivate and Minister Weir advocated for the planting of traditional
trees like soursop, golden apples, gooseberry, ackee and avocado trees, among others.
In Bawdens, St Andrew, quarter-acre plots will be distributed to apiculture farmers while land at Greenland in the same parish will be handed over to livestock farmers along with one ram and three ewes.
According to officials, lands will also be distributed in the Pine Basin, Bath St John and parts of St Lucy among other places.