Agricultural Minister Indar Weir does not believe that agriculture should be viewed as substituting for tourism now the latter is facing challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking yesterday on VOB’s Brass Tacks Sunday with moderator, Corey Lane, the Minister stressed it was about determining how to create synergies between the two, and letting the investment take place between the sectors.
Alluding to a project in the eastern part of the country, which is likely to achieve such synergies, he said: “What I would like to see is that agriculture is playing a role in terms of how do we empower people so that they can then provide for the tourism sector…. We have 100 acres of land at Bath, St. John, that we have determined that the Rastafarian communities across Barbados will do farming there. Currently, we have two groups and those two groups each have 20 acres of land. We are doing all the cultivation for them; if you drive up to Bath, you can see the cultivation taking place.
“What we are going to do is assist them so that they can get started, and use that area as a sort of a site where coaches passing through with tourists either from the cruise ships or long stay visitors doing island tours can actually stop in there. We are going to have kiosks there so that the vendors, the Rastafarians who are planting there, can actually sell their produce in a market setting. Barbadians can go there to purchase fresh produce and visitors can stop in.”
Pointing out that the Rastafarians, involved in food vending would also have an opportunity to sell locally grown produce straight from the ground to visitors, Mr. Weir, who is also responsible for Food Security, said this would enable the tourists to also sample local cuisine at the ground level – food cooked with the aid of organic agriculture.
“That is the kind of synergy that I want to see with tourism and agriculture in order for us to get growth in the sector, but equally empowering more people. And this is really my passion – how many more can I empower and enfranchise when we grow the sector and that is the type of conversation that I would want to have rather than ‘should it be agriculture or should it be tourism?’ because that is really going to take us down a path to nowhere, and the reality of it is that tourism is here to stay and we are going to grow agriculture to support it,” Minister Weir emphasised.