“The future of Food and Nutrition Security in Antigua and Barbuda,” was the focus of a Panel Discussion held yesterday (Tues) as part of extended activities for World Food Day, which was officially observed on October 16th.
It was the first of two forums which will be held during this month. The other is slated for 19th November.
Yesterday’s Panel comprised Director of Agriculture Mr. Jedidiah Maxime, FAO’s Focal Point for Antigua and Barbuda and Senior Extension Officer-Technical, Owolabi Elabanjo and CARDI’s Country Representative, Mr. Paul Lucas.
Mr. Maxime shared a synopsis on where Antigua and Barbuda stands with regards to food security.
He said that it is no secret that the country imports more than it produces and depends significantly on imported food to sustain itself.
He however noted that this does not augur very well for a country that can be food secured.
“We have resources that if we commit them in a very planned and strategic way, we can significantly reduce our dependency on imported food and to the extent that we can depend on what we produce to sustain ourselves, would be a measure of our food security.”
He continued, “We might not be able to produce one hundred percent of the food we need, but if we can produce enough that we can sustain ourselves and there are any external shocks to the food supply, then we will be able to survive, that’s what food security is all about.”
Maxime noted that as a vulnerable small island state, there are a number of factors that can affect food supply, such as war, outbreak of disease in one of the major supply chains and issues with transportation due to natural disasters.
He said that some people take the issue of food security for granted but the government has taken this very seriously to the extent that a Comprehensive Marketing Study has been commissioned and based on the Preliminary Report presented by FAO’s Consultant Elbert Johnson, there is much work to be done to enhance the state of the country’s food security.
Maxime said according to the report, the latest stats in terms of food imports has the food import bill standing close to 300 hundred million EC dollars annually.
He said that this is a lot of money leaving the country every year to bring food into the country.
Maxime wants to see more food-based business establishments utilizing local produce to drive their businesses, while offering options at the same.
He said that fast food agencies should consider using local poultry and other crops such as sweet potatoes to make chips (fries) instead of the using the irish potatoes. Food security, according to the agriculture director, is not just having food available but also having it accessible to the most vulnerable in society.
In the meantime, Maxime said that the government will be intensifying efforts to clean ponds and dams and construct new ones as part of continued efforts to improve rain water harvesting for agricultural use. Two new excavators should be arriving from China shortly to help in this initiative.
The Theme for World Food Day 2018 is: “Our Actions are our Future”
# A Zero Hunger World by 2030 is possible.
Elabanjo said that this year’s Theme is of key importance to Antigua and Barbuda as the country has been in the front line of the Zero Hunger Challenge since 2012.
He wants to see Antigua and Barbuda zero hunger free before the year2030 and called on all stakeholders such as IICA, CARDI, Ministry of Education, Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Social Transformation, Finance, Statistics , the Hoteliers, Farmers and Homeowners to work together towards achieving this goal.
He said that the backyard garden programme is one of the focal areas which can assist in achieving this.
‘Once every hand can be in the soil, everybody can plant and produce something, no matter how small it is, we will get to the promise land.”
Mr. Lucas, who is also the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) representative for Montserrat, said that the regional organization recognizes the importance of food security and is working closely with the ministry, IICA, FAO and other Stakeholders is very important.
“Because we recognize the need for food security within the region. From my standpoint, I would like to emphasize the need for greater collaboration; I think that goes a long way. As it stands, we found that working together allows us to accomplish much more.”
Lucas said that recently, for the backyard garden programme, the organisation has worked closely with the Extension Division in getting a number of plants ready for the farmers.
Apart from that initiative, Lucas said that they are also looking to work together on a number of workshops and other activities across the island.
The CARDI Country Representative said that educating the farmers and sharing new technology and practices, are pivotal to transforming the agriculture sector.