Today, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security joins with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in celebrating World Food Day.
The theme “Our actions are our future, healthy diets for a zero hunger world”, reminds us of the importance of healthy eating and the necessity of having sustainable programmes and policies in place that would effectively work to eradicate hunger.
Hunger is defined not only as the absence or scarcity of food, but also the lack of a consistent, balanced diet. Statistics indicate that 842 million people suffer from hunger worldwide, mostly in developing countries.
Research has shown that hunger is inextricably linked to poverty and malnutrition. How, therefore, can we end world hunger and malnutrition? Firstly, by increasing local production of fruits and vegetables at affordable prices to achieve dietary diversity. Secondly, there must be a worldwide practice of sustainable agriculture.
In support of the FAO’s second Sustainable Development Goal, which speaks of achieving Zero Hunger by the year 2030, the Government of Barbados, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, has taken the initiative to implement the Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED programme).
This programme aims to ensure long-term national food and nutrition security through improved access to safe and nutritious foods; and to increase employment, especially among the youth and women.
The first cohort of over 100 persons participated in the 12-week training component of the FEED programme and benefited from practical and theoretical training in various agricultural activities and practices. The programme has now entered the land allocation phase, where farmers who successfully complete the training will be eligible to lease land ranging from one-quarter of an acre to five acres.
Significantly, while pursuing the mentioned objectives, the agriculture sector will contribute to the Gross Domestic Product by increasing net foreign exchange earnings and reducing foreign exchange outflows.
In July 2017, history was created when the FAO convened a meeting of the First Parliamentary Front against Hunger (PFH) with Members of Parliament of the Caribbean Community in the context of the global fight against hunger and malnutrition.
In accordance with the recommendations from that meeting, the Government of Barbados and the Opposition have agreed to the establishment of a Parliamentary Front against Hunger and Malnutrition.
The Parliamentary Front Committee will seek to assess the policy regarding the School Feeding Programme and also engage fast food restaurants on healthier alternatives.
However, while adopting policies of sustainable agriculture, countries have encountered a ‘giant’ that is very disruptive. I refer to climate change, which is characterized by extreme temperatures and weather events that are likely to thwart sustainable agricultural development.
The intense droughts associated with climate change will further reduce the availability of potable water in our already water-scarce country. The Ministry continues to urge farmers to practise water-harvesting techniques, such as the collection of rainwater from the roofs of houses and animal pens, to be used for irrigation purposes.
Emphasis must also be placed on the utilization of environmentally controlled systems that can consistently produce high-quality crops despite adverse weather or climatic conditions, thus ensuring our nation’s food security.
In this regard, the Ministry is seeking to promote container farming which provides for year-round production of food, especially green leafy vegetables, herbs and other shallow-rooted crops. The application of this modern technology will no doubt attract more youth to agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has established a Climate Change Unit to assess the impact of climate change and examine the level of adaptation of animal species and crop varieties in order to develop strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Certainly, the Government of Barbados will continue to play its part in achieving healthy diets for a Zero Hunger World.