|Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick??|
Undoubtedly, if a country is to effectively feed its people, it must have a vibrant agriculture programme. To this end, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management is working assiduously to ensure this island’s farmers reap the most from their endeavours.
Irrigation is integral to agricultural production and, for some time, rural farmers, in particular, have experienced some difficulties in harvesting water.
One of the challenges government faces is to create the type of policy framework that would allow farmers in Barbados to effectively harvest or pond water and manage it so that they can irrigate their lands effectively and, therefore, enhance agricultural output.
Measures are now under way to alleviate the irrigation and drainage woes of farmers who ply lands at Codrington, St. Michael, River Plantation, St. Philip and Newcastle, St. John. There is scope for improvement at River Plantation since, if properly developed, this estate has the potential to significantly boost agricultural output for the 47 farmers who harvest crops on 287 acres of this estate and thus further contribute to feeding the nation.
Unlike many estates it lies in close proximity to an abundance of fresh water at the Three Houses Spring, but the drawback is that it is also prone to flooding at times. In order to rectify this problem, a US$300, 000 technical assistance project has been earmarked to provide a long-term water management system at the River Plantation.
It will be implemented by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick emphasised the importance of having an effective water management programme in place for farmers across the country. Speaking yesterday to the Barbados Government Information Service, he underlined: "We can no longer simply rely on when the rain falls. And to set up your planting cycles around when you have rain and when you don’t have rain is a rather precarious way of managing your output. And, therefore, establishing policies where legitimate farmers are going to be encouraged to establish water harvesting and water management systems, is going to redound to significant enhancement in agricultural production in the country."
Turning attention to organic farming as another effective technique, Dr. Estwick said he had observed the practices at several farms overseas. "I think the evidence is now strong that you get better soil conditions and you get a better microbial environment when you utilise your recycled animal waste as part of your fertilisation systems," he pointed out.
"When you utilise the waste from sheep, goats, cows etc. and you place it on the soil, when you wet it you create a particular environment. How is that different from waste water that is being utilised on a regular basis? You have the same microbial elements; in many cases you have the same bacterial type of what you call contamination, but this is how organic farming is done.
"…So we have to be very careful that when ponds are established that we don’t create situations where we want to put obstacles or regulations in place which says that you have to have a reduction in the nutrient base, and a reduction in the microbial base. That in itself would undermine organic farming," he declared.
He pointed out that his ministry intends to work very closely with the Environmental Protection Department, as well as the Town and Country Planning Development Office, so that the right policies and programmes could be put in place in relation to the ponding, harvesting and management of water in Barbados.