Backyard Farming initiative sets out to strengthen food security

As world food prices continue their steady climb, an initiative aimed at bringing Antigua & Barbuda’s food import bill down and promoting local production is getting under way.

Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Owalabi Elabanjo, told The Daily OBSERVER that today’s National Backyard Garden Day has the potential to make major inroads in enhancing food security, and saving money for residents and the country.

More than 1,500 people have expressed interest in the initiative which will include the distribution of seedlings and the sale of fruit trees at a nominal fee.

“These people will be producing their own food, using their own hands and their own resources. It will go a long way in our food security,” Elabanjo said.

“Every mouth must be fed in Antigua & Barbuda and if people out there can put together our little resources and supply food for ourselves rather than waiting for the food to come from Miami and elsewhere, at least we could do justice to the economy and to ourselves in Antigua.”

Statistics show that the country spends almost 80 cents of every dollar earned on food imports.

Elabanjo said with global food prices rising daily, it’s an ideal time for Antigua & Barbuda to curtail its dependence on foreign goods.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture will also be promoting the manufacturing of foodstuff from what is grown locally.

“We need to start to process some of what we produce – like tomatoes we can use for tomato paste, tomato ketchup; watermelon you can process into any form; our papaya, cassava, dasheen,” he said. “We need to look into the secondary and tertiary uses of all these products and how best we can preserve them so they can last long for our usage.”

Activities for National Backyard Garden Day take place on the grounds of Ministry of Agriculture, on Independence Drive, from 9:30 am to 3 pm.