Errol Barrow, the first Prime Minister of Barbados, was a visionary leader who understood the importance of adapting the country’s economy to the changing times. His forward-thinking approach to agriculture serves as an inspiration for today’s leaders, especially when it comes to addressing the challenges of food security and dependence on imported food in small island developing states (SIDS) like Barbados.
Barrow’s leadership in the 1960s was marked by policies that aimed to boost the agricultural sector, such as encouraging land reform and providing support to small farmers. He also recognized the need to diversify the agricultural sector and encouraged farmers to grow a variety of crops, such as sugarcane, cotton, and fruits and vegetables. This helped to increase the resilience of the agricultural sector and made it less vulnerable to market fluctuations.
I’m sure you must have seen this article from GIS (see below).
While I totally agree with the need to address food security by regional leaders much more is needed to be done if we are to ever come close to satisfying the food requirements of the region from regional sources. With specific reference to Barbados there are several areas that we need to urgently address. These include:
Getting an effective praedial larceny act in place,
Giving meaningful incentives to small farmers,
Work towards removing the stigma associated with farming and agricultural work,
Allow would be small food crop farmers to have a real stake in the sector (provision of unused parcels of government land at viable concessions, revive the agricultural seed store with a wide variety of viable seeds),
Put conditions in place to control crop pests especially monkeys. I’m sure there are several other factors you can think of.
Food security and food crop farming must be seen as important by every member of society and government must do all it can to ensure this is achieved.
I remember the late Dr Keith Laurie saying that during the second world war Barbados was able to feed itself since no food was coming in from outside. There is no good reason why we can’t achieve this on a Caricom wide basis.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has used the platform of a major agriculture conference to make a strident call for regional heads to join together to ensure the region’s food security.
She made the call yesterday during the opening ceremony of the three-day Agri-Investment Forum and Exhibition in Guyana, as she spoke on the topic: Pursuing CSME and Removing Barriers to Enhancing Agri-Trade Within the Region.
Ms. Mottley told the large gathering that the ongoing crisis with Russia and Ukraine had reinforced the vulnerabilities of the millions of people living in the Caribbean, based on the effect of wheat and other food restrictions in place by some overseas countries which export wheat and its by-products.
The Prime Minister shared that Russia, the Ukraine and India had stopped sending important food and grocery items outside its borders, and warned of more restrictions to follow by governments to safeguard their food supplies in the face of soaring inflation.
She articulated the view that the entire Caribbean region had to be viewed not just in the context of the population in CARICOM of 18 million people, but also the visitors received on an annual basis, whose “responsibility is ours to feed”.
Ms. Mottley affirmed: “We are at that moment in time when it is up to us to stand up to the challenge or to recognise that the consequences of it will indeed be difficult and potentially devastating for our people. While we await the global initiatives to be announced by the UN Secretary General and the global crisis response team he has established on food, energy and financing with the expectation that what the world faces will be more challenging than what we faced in 2008 to 2010. We have a responsibility to take preemptive action in this region to protect our people.”
The Prime Minister and other regional heads also made a case for more regular transportation of goods across the region with the suggestion that a new solution be found to move the cargo.
“In this moment, when maritime transport is at its greatest challenge, we have to recognise that the bridge to resuscitating Caribbean tourism air transport may well be having regional air cargo moving to help offset the investment to move our people,” she emphasised.
Ms. Mottley continued: “We may need to look at different planes and we may need to look at more regular traffic. The regularity of movement may well be the solution for us rather than these large aircrafts that move once or twice a day.”
The three-day event was held under the theme: Investing in Vision 25 by 2025, which represents the goal to lower the region’s US $6 billion food import bill by 25 per cent within the next three years.
Russia’s war in Ukraine will disrupt commerce and clog up supply chains, slashing economic growth and pushing prices sharply higher around the globe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned Thursday….the 38-country OECD said that over the next year, the conflict would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) — the broadest measure of economic output — by 1.08 percent worldwide, by 1.4 percent in the 19 European countries that share the euro currency and by 0.88 percent in the United States.
The ongoing war in Ukraine obviously has implications for global trade and supply chains, consequently there has been growing attention to the issue of food and nutrition security. This comes on the back of the ongoing pandemic that has already disrupted the global supply with increase demand for certain products exposing challenges in production and distribution. With global challenges predicted to continue the obvious question for curious minds is to examine the Mia Mottley government’s agriculture mitigation measures under Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir.
The goal of the F.E.E.D programme is to involve more young people in agriculture by training them and providing them with land and infrastructure after training by initially targeting was 1200 farmers. The government is also reportedly spending millions of dollars in St. Phillip and St.Lucy. The water harvesting project at River in St. Phillip is almost complete.
However the agriculture project which captures the imagination of the blogmaster is the initiative at the Lears Land Lease project. It is a partnership between government and C.O Williams with the plan to allocate land between 5000 sq ft and 2 acres to 150 F.E.E.D programme participants. A component of the project is that it plans construction of a food terminal in partnership with Guyana and Suriname which should see Barbados becoming a southern Caribbean hub for the distribution of food throughout the region. Barbados hopes to benefit from competitive prices for food products which are not produced in Barbados. Also there is another upside- products produced in excess like onions local farmers will have access to a facility to export to the rest of Caricom to ease any glut.
Another initiative is the Blackbelly Sheep project which seeks to increase local blackbelly sheep population from 10,000 to 1 million in 5 years. This is being led by local black belly sheep expert Dr. Leroy McClean. The project is expected to utilize land space in Guyana for sheep farming and hopefully significant reduce lamb imports into Caricom.
These initiatives have resulted from the St.Barnabas Accords which is an agreement signed by Barbados, Guyana and Suriname on cooperation across several sectors. This partnership with Guyana – described for years as the bread basket of the region – is long overdue and was a part of the vision of the late Owen Arthur who all agree was a big proponent of the CSME, a component of CARICOM.
The blogmaster is about recognizing results, in this case the measure must be a spike in agriculture output by moving the GDP needle. However some marks must be given to the Mottley administration for the ongoing initiatives mentioned. For sure volatility in the global production and distribution commodities market demands the urgency of now by leaders for the region to cooperate and find ways to feed its people. Globalization as we knew it seems to be under threat- a new global order is emerging and countries are rethinking alliances and leaning more to smaller trading blocks. The St. Barnabas Accord along with others to be born maybe the way forward to circumvent more bureaucratic regional arrangements.
There is a popular saying “God helps those who help themselves“. The pandemic has been with us almost 2 years, we know any pandemic is likely to disrupt the global supply chain. We know Barbados is a significant importer of food, over the years successive governments have paid lip service to prioritizing food security. It is cheaper to import than produce in Barbados they say – what about forming a strategic relationship with other islands? What is the purpose of Caricom?
The following was sent to the blogmaster with the following question. The old people have another saying – “you have made your bed and will have to lie on it”.
David you want a better reason why we should have introduced a greenhouse project over a year ago than this?
The Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes will deliver the quarterly review of Barbados’ economy, next Wednesday, October 28 at 11:00 AM. In recent years Barbadians have become numb to the performance of the economy as we battle with a high debt to GDP, high unemployment, low national productivity to name three key performance indicators.
The pandemic expectedly served to stress the fragile state of the local economy and according to the mid year review of the economy by the Central Bank in June 2020 – see Central Bank of Barbados Review of the Economy January the economy saw a sharp decline that was the trend across sectors, EXCEPT, for Agriculture which saw a 3.7 percent expansion in non sugar agriculture.
For many years Barbados Underground has pleaded with government to allocate additional resources to the food sector. Barbados is surrounded by the sea with an abundance of fish, a mature poultry and pig industry and with declining sugar production available land space to plant root and other crops to grow the agriculture sector. It is heartening to see non sugar agriculture output trending upwards and expect that next week the trend will continue when the Governor delivers the quarterly report. A good news story forced by the pandemic we have to admit.
Last year government launched the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) to increase domestic agricultural production with the objective of enticing more young people and the use of technology into farming. In 2011 Barbados Underground featured the Aquaponnics project located at Bairds Village – Baird’s Village Aquaponics Project, A Case Study For Homegrown Success. Finally Mr. Hinkson, a pioneer of the technology in Barbados is getting the recognition he deserves.
It is no secret one of the factors negatively affecting the agriculture sector is praedial larceny. Successive government have paid lip service to introducing measures and enforcing existing laws to protect farmers and the sector. If we are serious about increasing and sustaining output, we MUST address the scourge of praedial larceny. If it were the tourism sector we know the calvary would have been summons by government to lend assistance.
That said we should be encouraged by the growth in non sugar agriculture and continue to improve by increasing technology and education in the sector. Let us guard against crop theft AND leverage opportunities CARICOM can provide. We lack the land space to benefit from scale and the small size of the domestic market to keep price points low to compare with the competition. The following report on the Caricom Agriculture and Food security Task Force is instructive and we pray for its success so that we continue to move the agriculture output needle in the right direction.
See GIS report:
CARICOM Agriculture & Food Security Task Force Established
CARICOM now has a Food Security Task Force to ensure that member states make agricultural development a priority.
This was disclosed by Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, recently, as he gave the Barbados Government Information Service an update of new initiatives under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) at his Culloden Road office.
Ambassador Comissiong explained that the task force was implemented to ensure that the region does not experience any deficit in food supplies and that the agriculture and food production sectors were enhanced.
He said: “This initiative is intersecting with the Barbados National FEED (Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive) programme. The Government has a programme in place to bring on board 2,000 new farmers to seriously enhance Barbados’ capacity to produce its own food and agricultural produce.”
The envoy added that as it was announced in the Throne Speech, additional resources would be put in place to establish and develop “new markets across our landscape”.
“So, clearly, one of the responses to the crisis (COVID-19 pandemic) is for Barbados to produce much more of its food. Right now, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange purchasing food from outside our CARICOM region. So, if at the regional level and at the national level we could enhance our food production, then in a situation where the tourism has collapsed [and] we are not bringing in the foreign exchange, we can get around that need for foreign exchange by producing more of our food,” he stated.
Heather Cole is asking for the public’s support to ensure the success of a food security project at the Todds Plantation.
Dear Prospective Investors and Members,
Although the conception of the People’s Agricultural and Business Co-op was done prior to COVID-19, we did not anticipate that our fears would have been realized months later when this global pandemic began to wreak havoc on the economy. COVID-19 has exposed the harsh reality that insufficient food is being grown on the island that Barbadians call home.
It has been said that Barbadians do not work together for economic gain. With this in mind, The People’s Agricultural and Business Co-operative Ltd. is seeking to become an agent of change in Barbados. It is providing an opportunity for ordinary Barbadians to economically come together through the formation of this co-op to grow food, produce by- products, engage in marine farming, grow agri- produce and engage in several other business activities…
The following blog reflects concern about food security in a Trinidad and Tobago context, however, the message rings true for the majority of countries in the region including Barbados. It raises the perennial concern that Caricom has not been able to implement solutions to address concerns about the need for food security for its member. Thanks to Tee White sharing the link with the blogmaster.
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that all restaurants and food vendors will be ordered to cease the sale of food until the COVID-19 virus is under control in T&T. Rowley’s announcement seemed to have inspired a civil war as many have been led to believe that this decision was the result of pressure from disgruntled doubles vendors. However while the country is locked in a senseless argument about whether KFC is “essential” or not, a larger, more pressing issue that has haunted our country for our entire history looms larger than ever. That is, the question of food sovereignity.
As a small island nation with a dormant manufacturing sector, almost every item that is consumed- from clothes, to electronics and especially food- is imported from abroad. But as the COVID infection continues to rip throughout the world without abating, entire industries are being forced to shut down due to concerns about the safety of workers and the wider population. If this virus isn’t brought under control, there is the very real possibility of our nation having to forgo imported goods for as long as the world needs for this virus to relent.
This is a frightening possibility, especially given the fact that our agriculture industry isn’t even a major industry anymore. What would the future hold for the 1.3 million people who live here with our source of sustainance gone? “Too late, too late!” shall be the cry as we would finally understand how important it would have been for our nation to feed itself.
What can the government do (perhaps more poignantly- what would an MSJ government do) in order to revive agriculture in a way that can save us from impending disaster?
It begins with incentivising agriculture. At this point, this is where defenders of past and present agri-policy would interject and list the various incentives that exist for farmers locally. However, none of these incentives address a fundamental problem affecting farmers- the purchasing of agricultural produce.
By importing cheap food that has been mass produced on industrial farms in other countries, we have flooded our own nation with cheap produce which has made it difficult for local farmers to compete. The higher cost of local goods have discouraged both retailers and consumers from buying local. As a result, farmers continue to struggle despite the numerous incentives that are available. However these incentives mean nothing if farmers can’t even get their produce sold.
Therefore it is important that the purchase of local goods are guaranteed by law. Under the MSJ, all supermarkets and other retailers must first purchase products from local farmers before turning to outside sources to fill their shelves. In doing so not only would we provide a stable and steady source of income for local farmers but we would also cut down on the loss of foreign exchange- the shortage of which has triggered yet another crisis in T&T. In addition to mandating the purchase of local food products, the cost of these items will be offset through government subsidies. Why has this not been done before? This oversight can be easily attributed to apathy and nonchalance, but we see something more sinister. The retailers and traders locally have amassed great fortunes through the buying and re-selling of imported goods. From supermarkets to fast food restaurants, the business elite have been able to influence government policy for their benefit and theirs alone. Funds generated from this un-innovative business model have been used to fund political parties and keep politicians in their pockets- hence the lack of interest by both major parties to develop agriculture.
There are other reasons to avoid foreign food products. Last year, the world was horrified as we witnessed the destruction of the Amazon rainforest at the hands of the Brazilian government. The Amazon is being destroyed because the president of Brazil has practically sold large swaths of the forest to agribusinessmen, who are turning the Lungs of the Earth into mega-farms. Many meat, vegetable and beverage products are imported from Brazil into T&T every year. By turning to Brazil for food we are indirectly contributing to the ongoing destruction of the Amazon and the genocide of indigenous people living there. It should also be mentioned here that this will no doubt contribute to climate change, something that can seriously affect our lives as Caribbean people.
Another hindrance to local agriculture has been the habit of both government and opposition parties alike to use fertile farmland for conscruction sites. This is because housing continues to be used as a political tool and not the human right that it is. A separate article about the state of housing will be written in due time; but to address the the topic of agriculture, rest assured that not a single inch of farmland would ever be used for construction projects under an MSJ government. Arable land is a limited resource, especially on an island as small as ours. Every effort must be taken to ensure that such land is protected and utilised in the manner that it ought to be used in.
The establishment of community-based cooperatives will also be encouraged. Beginning at a local government level, each Borough Corporation will establish a number of community farms in order to meet the demands of the population. It should be highlighted that some local government districts (especially those in the built-up, urbanised areas) may not have access to land. This is where indoor and vertical farming can be introduced to ensure that every district can feed its people despite the lack of available land space.
We hope with all our hearts that this COVID-19 crisis passes by without any major fallout for T&T. However even when that happens, we are still far from being out of the woods. For there will be many long battles to fight in the very near future. Because with climate change comes the possibility of droughts, hurricanes and flash floods- things that will no doubt put a strain on our national resources and especially our food supply. One of the ways China was able to contain the COVID-19 virus was due in part to their stockpiling of food supplies for the population. During the course of its long history, the Chinese have had to endure many calamities- natural disasters, disease, war, etc. So it is no wonder that they have figured out that the best way to ensure survival for everyone is to begin by simply making it possible for each person to have a plate of food. We ought to take a page out of China’s book in this regard and turn to our farmers for our survival as a nation.
Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) & Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
Investigate the production (oil palm) as the replacement for sugar cane production including on hilly or semi-arid lands. The infrastructure that we have in sugar plantations is the same as required for this type plantation crop and we have an oil processing plant in Barbados i.e. Roberts Manufacturing. Just a small amount of retooling is necessary. The by-products of Oil Palm production EG: palm kernel meal can be utilised and be consumed as chicken feed, cattle, sheep & goat feed, instead of the importation of feed and feed stocks. The soya bean stock that is imported now to make Oil, Margarine, etc. could be a thing of the past. Palms grow well in Barbados from coconut to ornamental palms. It is easy to include/change to Oil Palm & Date Palm if feasible and the topography and climate are conducive to these crops (Date Palm a more high valued product to be grown in the more arid parts of the island i.e. St. Lucy, St. Phillip) Another benefit to oil palm is the use of the land between and under the trees for raising cattle and Black Belly Sheep. This will also reduce the cost for weed control. There is a host of information on this type of farming on the net and can be had HERE.
Palm oil Plantation Palm oil fruit cutting
The main objection to palm oil production are environmental such as the removal of forests to plant the trees and the destruction of the habitat for the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Orangutans. None of these apply to Barbados as the land has been cleared hundreds of years ago to grow sugar cane. Utilisation of the idle land for productive and sustainable use will help to reduce the rodent and other pest populations currently in these areas. The selected oil palms bear fruit after 3 years.
Palm oil tree fruit
A similar palm tree, Bactris gasipaes,that bears fruit is Peewah or peach palm found in Trinidad. At this time of year it is sold like we sell Ackee at the side of the road and the fruit looks exactly like the fruit of the oil palm. The fruit is boiled and peeled and the flesh eaten. What left is the small coconut on the inside that you break open and eat.
2 Sugar Cane:
Government has indicated that it wants to keep the sugar cane industry for both production and aesthetic reasons with the countryside looking clean cut and manicured but a drive through the countryside you will see the amount of rab land that is idle and not the Barbados I remember. Most of the molasses used in Barbados is imported from Guyana. That is wise in that we import molasses and make rum and sell a value added product overseas as seen in Mount Gay Distilleries and to a greater extent RL Seale a contracted rum producer for the world’s best companies. Another product that we can make use of is the production of cane juice. Cane juice takes the major cost out of the production of sugar and every Bajan loves cane juice. Every tourist would want to drink cane juice, every hotel would offer cane juice. If the price was right. There are many health benefits for cane juice as the nutrients & enzymes probiotics are still present at this stage of production (Cane juice the new energy drink? Sure beats red bull) (and or create new signature drinks for bars utilising cane juice, a competition can bring out the best of our local bar-tenders talent. A rum and cane juice with a wedge of lime anyone?). At present cane juice sells for $14 for a half gallon in the supermarket. Imagine the volume that can be sold if it was wholesaled at <$5 per half gallon. The hotel industry will lap it up. If you felt that we still want to produce sugar how economical is that if you cannot produce cane juice for <$5 but want to produce sugar for $2.25 per lb. in the supermarket with all of the costs of production. Guyanese sugar sells for half of the Barbados sugar $1.10 per lb. We sell Molasses for $2 per gal at the port and cannot sell the juice for <$5? This molasses item is the cheapest item of food value in Barbados and we can import more from Guyana. Guyana does not have a tourist industry can we import frozen cane juice from Guyana if we cannot produce enough? A few small modern plants with the proper facilities can process the cane juice, filter & store it frozen or deliver fresh same day delivery. This item is year round revenue with a bump in extra wages for the tourist season as many more persons will be enjoying the juice.
We have a huge market for coconut water we know palms grow well in Barbados we should increase the production of coconuts for water and Jelly for the supermarkets and the Tourist market/Hotels. Beach bars sell branded coconuts to the cruise ship passengers now, and it does not cost foreign exchange. We however have a shortage of coconut water and its products now. The usage of coconut water can increase by many multiples utilising both the plantation system and small farmer setup that we currently have. This crop is year round revenue which means no yearly pressure months of high wages and waiting years to get the money repaid. This however depends on whether the trees are newly planted (you have to wait about 5-7 years before significant production starts.) or you use better farming practices such as fertiliser to increase yields from exiting trees. All of the investigative work is being done by the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture. Just the will and literally seed money by the government is now needed to bring in the high yielding seed nuts. The proposed first shipment is about 6,000 treated nuts. These can be grown with the palm trees as a mix plantation crop during the same time the germinating and initial nurturing of the palm oil palms trees.
4 King Grass:
King Grass is a tall grass and is easy to grow. It does not deplete the soil of its nutrients and can be grown repeatedly on the same spot. An amount is presently being grown and sold as fuel to BL&P to generate electricity it does not require the looking after and fertilising like sugar cane plants. As an added benefit that hardly any one talks about is that this grass is loved by cows and black belly sheep as forage. If it is encouraged it may be the start of a beef and lamb industry. The more that cows and sheep walk to forage for their grass the leaner and tougher the meat, now with the advent of the grass being provided the animals will not have to walk and they will get fatter and the meat will be more tender and can be in greater demand. Barbados beef does have a nice and desirable distinctive taste but tough, only a real life experiment will tell if the beef will indeed be tenderer. With this king grass the dairy cows may be more tender when put out to market as their forage will be given them daily. Note: that this is currently done on dairy farms at present with other grasses in the form of silage.
5 Medical Marijuana:
Marijuana will grow well in the type of soil and conditions we have.Medical marijuana is the plant without the THC the ingredient that makes one high. To grow this we will need to process it to the stage of the oil and tablet form, not export the raw material. We want the value add to remain in Barbados. This type of item will be in greater demand all over the world while the rest of the world concerns itself with decriminalising the use of high THC marijuana for smoking. The medical uses for this type of marijuana have greater access to the world for a host of illnesses. This is the plant with great future use in the medical industry and would have a premium value attached to it.
The obvious problem that no politician venture to talk about. They may talk about it as in “we import too many items we can grow here in Barbados” or “we need food security” or “as a nation we are living too high we need to live within our means” or “Buy Bajan” or “have your own kitchen garden” but never that the small farmer who tries and grows most of the vegetable crops in Barbados are being robbed daily by crop thieves at night, the large scale farmers have already given up. Why plant and tend a crop for 10 weeks and the last week half is stolen and if you set a guard the last week, the 9th week half of it is stolen or the guard says” I did not see anything I must have been at the other end of the field”. We now have a situation that the large farmers are out and the small farmers who supply the bulk of local produce only get to sell half of what they sowed. The perennial larceny law needs up grading. The penalties needs stiffening, the police needs to respond within 20 minutes and the people protecting their land/livelihood/family can be given permission to use any type of force including using firearms. Now you know why yams/onions/carrots/sweet potatoes/butternut squash/water melons/other melons/beans/peppers/ ETC. have so high a selling price.
Since the PM rightly so, has embarked on a plan to make Barbados Government work and work correctly get the AG to do his part.
Max Total Acreage that can be Available
Sugar Cane Juice
Barbados has 28,000 acres of arable land
All of the waste that might be generated by these products/crops (oil palm/coconut etc.) can be utilised with the King Grass to be burnt to create electricity and any resultant ash can be recycle back to the farms/plantations as a potash source for fertilising crops.
Based on the topography of the hilly country side of St. Andrew & St Joseph those lands are presently not utilised, which is the better crop to use that will be easier/practical to get out of the valleys. – Oil palms and medical marijuana
BL&P can say now how much King Grass they can use now and in the future and if they want to use it as the main source for their boilers and the farmers can calculate how many acres are needed to satisfy BL&P with the rest for sheep/goat & cattle forage. No more Forex for furnace oil going out of the country.
All said and done Barbados can have a bright future in agriculture if the above are implemented and we have not touched as yet on the expanded role of the Agricultural station propagation unit in fruit (& other types) enhance trees or an education program how to….. Graph trees (Air Layering Propagation)/control pest/fungi/fertiliser use/their outreach to house holders. I have seen dounce/dunks the size of a golden apple and sugar apples/guava that could not fit in one hand. We need those here in Bim.
It will take a while for any vision of agriculture to materialise the fastest one that can start is Sugar Cane Juice followed by King Grass & Medical Marijuana. Oil Palm & Coconut have a few years before we can see the results. We can start with a real vision (like above) without which we will all perish.
Merit Based Immigration & Citizenship by Investment:
Indar Weir, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security
The Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of David Estwick in the former government became an invisible ministry. While we accept that a lack of resources would have impacted how government carried out its business, a nation that relegates food security to the back burner should expect to be haunted by the decision in a volatile global sphere.
How difficult is it to cultivate linkages between locally produced agriculture, tourism, government (Barbados School Meals, Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and the wider community to guarantee sufficient demand? What is the scorecard of the Barbados Agriculture Society (BAS)? The output from the agriculture sector based on the central bank reports tracking GDP by Sector and Acticity has not shown any appreciable increase in the last decade.
A few weeks ago BU family member Bentley Norville shared the following document to poke those currently responsible to prioritized matters pertaining to agriculture. We hope current minister of agriculture and FOOD SECURITY Indar Weir takes heed.
Of recent North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un has become the focal point of USA’s foreign policy.
Not long ago it was Saddam Hussein of Iraq, a country that was invaded based on a lie. There were no weapons of mass destruction stupid! The wonton destruction of property dated to the period of Babylonia is enough to challenge those with the strongest faith that there is a God.
We should not forget General Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who was ‘taken out’ because he dared to buck the establishment. All knowledgeable observers agree that Gaddafi was no saint if a Western definition is applied, the BU counter is that leading a country in the Middle East requires an alternative approach to governing in much the same way the West appears to have accepted a communist system of government in China.
Another ‘bad man’ is Syria’s Bashar Hafez al-Assad reported by the Western media as using chemical weapons on his people. Up until 2010 Assad was viewed as a respectable leader in the ME until he took a contrary position on Arab Spring protesters. The world community slammed the door on Syria and a civil war has been fought since that time. We weep at the thousands of civilians killed, the destruction of ancient cities and relic. However, one has to wonder to what extent the decimation of a country mentioned in the Bible is as a result of an ME foreign policy by the West gone bad.
Many Barbadians live lifes oblivious to the inter-connectivity of global economies and the immediate effect caused by the blurring of national boundaries. Although one has to ‘wonder’ at the thought of the only superpower proposing to go to war with North Korea, a lilliputian nation in comparative terms. Barbadians should be concerned that should a military event occur it would have catastrophic implications for Barbados and the region. The impact on our economies as a result of 911 and the Iraq war are recent examples.
A key concern would be the disruption to international shipping lanes and the impact on the delivery of food and other essentials by a country that imports almost 700 million dollars worth. Not to mention the uncertainty caused by a significant military event on leisure travel. No need to remind that Barbados must earn foreign exchange to pay its bills. Last check foreign reserves dipped to less than 10 weeks of import cover as at June 2017 or a smidgen over 300 million, the lowest since 2000.
Instead of promoting a national discussion about how we mobilize our people to tackle food security, we have to listen to head of the Barbados Agriculture Society (BAS) James Paul mouthing about gangs in his constituency, a prime minister attacking a spent force in Arthur and last but not to be forgotten, the deafening silence of David Estwick, minister of agriculture.
If after eight years of witnessing an economy struggling to achieve anemic economic growth and the social decay that has taken root evidenced by lawless members of the criminal underworld waving high-powered weapons in crowed areas is not enough to shape a more relevant narrative by civil society (including our political class), then may God have mercy on our souls..
This is an overview of the plan for the building of a privately owned aquaponics industry capable of providing 100% of Barbados’s locally consumed herbs and vegetables; We invite you to our open day on June 10th time 7 till 11 or 1 till 5 to take a close look at the future of local farming – click on the link to find the farm using Google Maps – https://www.google.com/maps?cid=9583706197124082053&hl=en&gl=gb&shorturl=1. The Aquaponics machine is the open sourced solution for mainstream adaptation of a food production system independent of the global industrial agriculture complex. We must reach 2 tipping points in this journey to achieve market acceptance. 1500 persons must adopt hobby level systems and 700 persons must adopt semi commercial systems. I will tell you why below but first let me tell you why aquaponics is the solution.
The true cost of food is subsidized by outside market forces, what we pay for food is considerably less than the cost to produce the actual food. Farming is very difficult because farming is actually in a different sector of the economy from all other goods and services this is called the primary economy and this is evident in the fact that farmers pay retail for inputs and sell produce at wholesale price, the reverse of the secondary economy cash flow model which is to buy low add a profit and sell high.
Aquaponics works because of two factors, the first factor is because it is water based farming so the physical work of moving and processing manure on the farm is transferred from inefficient manual labor to precise electrical work of water pumps offering an exact monetary value for the work input to a farming system. When coupled with solar powered systems the payment amounts are below the current rates charged by the electrical company. The second factor is because 100% of the fish waste is reused as the main input for plant production. The efficiency of having two financial models operating with one input is what gives aquaponic systems the ability to operate without subsidies. And it has been proven to be culturally accepted mainly because of highly localized distribution networks.
Using a standardize 350 gallon component with a small footprint allows for little altering to the land and because of the water based nature of aquaponics there is little pollution therefore it is the only farming model capable of operation in residential areas. By using one standard 350 gall container it makes the complex dynamics of aquaponics adaptable by ratio, the basic one being 1 fish component to 4 plant components. It takes a minimum of 206 components in a network to produce minimal viable cash flow per operator.
It’s a long term investment; we have to sell 1500 hobby level systems to raise the resale value of the component to 50% of original cost. At this first topping point the market will be consuming enough fish feed to lower the cost to $1 per pound. Hobby level systems have a quick ROI of 4 years because they are competing against organic supermarket prices. The lower feed input cost will in turn be lowering return on investment for commercial investors in the wholesale market to 4 years making way for larger scale investment in the industry. At this secondary tipping point of 700 full time operators a computerized network with a centralized processing and supporting system can accurately predict 3 months of food production, securing sales.
Hardly a week seems to go by without one or two prominent figures calling for, or in some cases demanding, more use of local produce by our tourism industry and especially restaurants. First, I absolutely and totally support this objective but I wonder if the energy expended in trying to make this happen is entirely well placed or in fact truly balanced.
Some time ago the dairy farmers were complaining about being forced to accept lower prices and reduced quotas, the virtual monopoly milk processing entity unilaterally stopped making yogurts locally, pretty much a basic serving menu article in most hotels and alternative accommodation offerings. No-one can convince me that it is cheaper to bring in a foreign made refrigerated alternative across 6,000 or more miles by road and ship and for the wholesale distributors to always disperse them within the stated sell by date. There has to be waste and spoilage.
I also understand the economics of mass branded cheeses like Cheddar, but surely there are specialty items that can be made locally like double cream, feta and cottage cheese which are largely imported with a huge drain of foreign currency.
My first true commercial farm upgrade to aquaponics (AP) is complete, the first of many more as the commercial farmers are rushing to exploit the labor saving qualities of AP. This type of farming comfortably puts you in the .3 to .7 worker per acre range, amazingly, with no additional labour skill sets required. This reduction in labor is replaced with small, constant energy usage.
When upgrading, priority is to utilize materials from on-site, the aim is to keep this as simple and cost effective as possible. Most pioneering farmers have usable materials from past projects, check. I wouldn’t go as far as to advice on system design because all systems, programs and growers are unique; however experience and good system design when converting are crucial for the continuity of the farm.
As a long time consultant on all things aquaponic and farming in general there are certain dynamics I have become acutely aware of in regards to farm and farmer for a project to be a success. I have some important ones list out here.