St. John’s Antigua- The Ministry of Agriculture is moving full speed ahead in its quest to further advance backyard farming.
The programme launched in 2011, seeks to address the issue of food security and the availability of wholesome foods to all citizens by encouraging all to grow what they eat.
According to Agriculture Minister Hilson Baptiste the ministry will be intensifying its campaign to increase the level of production from backyard farmers.
Baptiste, who was speaking at the launch of National Backyard Gardening Day, said the aim is to see at least 4 million pounds of food produced annually from the programme.
“I want to see that happen. You would not have to buy anything from the supermarket, you can grow your own and share with you neighbours, I grew up where my mother would send some pumpkins to someone and they would send back two fish we build better communities when we do this,” Baptiste said.
The minister said his ministry will be stepping up the support given to backyard farmers to ensure that the needs of everyone are met.
To this end, the ministry will be dividing the country into zones, to better support the initiative.
“We are zoning Antigua off into three or four zones to focus on each zone once per month to ensure that we assist you to better supply yourself and your family with all the vegetables you need,” the minister added.
Over 300 new and existing backyard gardeners flocked the Ministry’s headquarters on Queen Elizabeth Highway to participate in the programme.
At the close of business day yesterday the ministry distributed over 15,000 vegetable seedlings to the anxiously awaiting crowd.
Among the seedlings distributed were tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, sweet peppers, season peppers, and an assortment of fruit trees were available for sale at a minimal cost.
Also present at the ceremony on Wednesday was Finance Minister Harold Lovell, who made remarks on the behalf of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Lovell, who spoke highly of the initiative, commended Minister Baptiste for his drive and commitment to the programme over the past year.
He said years ago the society turned its back on agriculture and this void was filled with the importation of foods and vegetables at a high cost to the country.
“I think the backyard garden initiative is very important from the point of view of food security and we must get back to that position where even if we do not produce everything that we eat, we should produce substantially what we eat and we should also eat what we produce,” Lovell said.
Lovell added that agriculture is very important to the country’s economy and should be recognized as the most important form of culture.
The event was declared opened by Governor General Dame Louise Lake Tack.
According to officials with the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010, the twin island nation imported approximately 16 million pounds of vegetables and serious moves are being made to slash that amount by half.