By Janelle Joseph
The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & the Environment, continues to roll out various programmes geared at attaining a satisfactory level of food security for the twin island state.
One programme that is helping to achieve this goal through the participation of various communities is the National Backyard Garden initiative, now in its second year.
The National Backyard Garden initiative focuses on boosting the local capacity of food production and reducing the national importation bill.
Now in its second year, the occasion was recently marked with the distribution of thousands of seedlings to backyard and commercial farmers. It is hoped that the distribution will motivate the community to participate in the Ministry’s effort to achieve a level of self sufficiency in food production.
Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptise said, “the national backyard garden day is a celebration of local farmers and the growth of the industry…we want to work with you and for you.”
The Agriculture Minister is also encouraging backyard farmers to resister with the Ministry of Agriculture in an effort to have Government assistance readily available to them upon request.
Minister Baptiste said the plan is to divide Antigua into six zones. This, he explained is to assist backyard famers with technical assistance to get their gardens started.
Florita Kentish, sub-regional Coordinator of the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), who endorses the backyard gardening initiative, says Antigua stands to benefit from FAO programs geared towards backyard gardeners.
She specifically referenced two upcoming FAO meetings, “the two events should provide the country with opportunities to expand the production sectors in a sustainable manner. However it is necessary that the backyard gardener and farmers buy into these opportunities in order to fully benefit from them.”
Minister of Finance the Hon. Harold Lovell commends the Ministry of Agriculture for recognizing the essential role of the sector; he also emphasized the importance of backyard gardening for good, healthy personal nutrition.
“This backyard garden initiative will help us all, to live healthier lives and will help to foster a strong economy.” The Finance Minister said.