From Savings to Health: A Community Agricultural Initiative
Barbados, Minister of Agriculture, the Honorable Senator Hensley Benn revealed that at the end of 2007, Barbados’ food import bill was $523,995,835 (US $261,997,719). He stated the country had to find ways to increase food production. Too much of Barbados’ money is being spent on importing food, when we should be growing our own. However, not only is the government of Barbados overspending on food import, but members of the community are also feeling the squeeze of their wallet because of the need to buy food that could be homegrown.
- GEF SGP UNDP contributed US$27,595.00 towards the Square Foot Gardening Project.
- This project has also helped to reduce toxic chemicals in the environment and in the long term contribute to food and nutritional security.
Andrea C Taylor, national Breakfast Coordinator for the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) in Barbados stated that between 6 YWCA locations, they feed about 850 children. “We have to purchase our seasonings, our onions, our sweet peppers and many more products to ensure that the children have a well-balanced meal at the end of the day. Feeding 850 children is expensive”.
The key to this problem is to teach the community how to grow some of what they eat. With the Support of GEF SGP UNDP, the Square Foot Gardening Project was created to assist people in the community. This project established a sustainable training programme for poor and marginalized people interested in developing small backyard farms for subsistence and income generation using organic methods. This initiative will also assisted the YWCA in generating an income stream which will contribute to feeding poor school children. GEF SGP UNDP has contributed USD $27,595.00 and has achieved a number of goals.
The project will establish a long-term training programmes in organic methods with objectives of:
- Training a minimum of 60 people in organic methods who will establish at least 60 demonstration farms plus one major farm at the YWCA's headquarters;
- Building the capacity of the YWCA in managing an organic farming teaching programme; and
- Creating an additional income stream or a cost saving initiative for the YWCA's school feeding programme.
Joyce, a member of the community participating in the Square Foot Gardening Projected talked about the benefits she had from this initiative. “We want to go to the supermarket and just buy everything. But I like knowing how to plant my own cassava, green banana trees, pumpkin, thyme and okras. The material [food in the supermarket] is so expensive, and it doesn’t look presentable. When you plant your own food, you know how you are growing it”.
Marcia, another participant continues, “there are no chemicals in the methods we have been taught. I can grow my own seasonings, and when I’m done, I just have to blend it all together and put it in the freezer to store”.
David Bynoe, agronomist and environmental economist explains the further benefits of this project. “During the Square Foot Gardening Project, we teach the members of the community and equip them with the necessary skills to grow their own food. They can save money, but more, they can also earn money. Members of the community can sell their excess produce and turn this into a business, generating income for the household.
The following are the major benefits of the Square Foot Gardening Project:
- Save money on groceries;
- Improve families health by eating more fresh food;
- Reduce the environmental impact – fewer pollutants, reduce carbon footprint;
- Build a sense of pride in the achievement to the individual; and
- Reduce food waste – less likely to throw what you grow.
This project has also helped to reduce toxic chemicals in the environment and in the long term contribute to food and nutritional security.