|Address by the Minister of Agriculture at the World Food Day Awards Ceremony 2008|
|Written by Mark Byer|
|Friday, 02 July 2010 09:54|
Address by Senator Honourable Haynesley Benn
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development at the
World Food Day Awards Ceremony 2008 at the
Accra Beach Hotel and Resort on
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Mr. Chairman, Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Permanent Secretary, Chief Agricultural Officer, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Members of the World Food Day Committee, Awardees, Specially Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentleman.
It is an honour for me to be sharing with you in this awards ceremony. This evening’s event marks the culmination of an extended week of activities organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MAR) in honour of World Food Day.
At the 20th session of the FAO Conference held in November 1979, member countries of the organisation were invited to observe World Food Day on October 16. This year will mark the 28th celebration of the event. The day serves to raise public awareness of the existence of poverty and hunger alleviation present in the world and to promote universal food security.
Fittingly, the week of activities were so organised as to give promotion to the objective of the day. As customary, the celebration commenced with a church service held this year at the Family Worship Centre, Battaleys, St. Peter; a Health Walk, which I am told was a success as it continues to grow in popularity; a Schools’ Competition, where schools are invited to mount displays depicting their interpretation of World Food Day. The Rural Enterprise Showcase had to be cancelled because of the unfavourable weather condition. There was also a Health Fair and an Agricultural Forum coordinated by the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all those who assisted in the planning and coordination of the many activities or who contributed in various ways to the success of these events.
Each year, the FAO selects a theme for the World Food Day celebrations. This year the event was celebrated under the theme “World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy”. This seemingly long and complex theme was aimed at “highlighting the implications of energy and climate change for agriculture and food security. It focused on the current and future impacts of adopting new strategies for the management of natural resources and the environment, encouraging adequate agricultural production and access to food and incomes of rural population”. Simply put, the theme looked at the impact of changing weather patterns on our food crops, livestock and fish industry and correspondingly the price of bio-fuels produced from these food crops.
This subject formed part of the discussion at the High-Level Conference on World Food Security held at the FAO Headquarters in Rome during June of this year, at which time consideration was given to the implications of increasing food prices and related issues. The observance of World Food Day should this year contribute to promoting global awareness of the effects of increasingly severe climate patterns on agriculture and the impact of bio-fuels on food production.
There is no doubt that worldwide, we have been experiencing a change in climate, the weather has indeed become warmer. You may choose to debate whether such change has been brought on by the activities of man or by nature itself. Nevertheless, the over-riding question is what do we do about it?
Ladies and gentlemen, how do we now address the problem? How do we cope with rapidly increasing food and fuel prices and demand for bio-fuels? How do we ensure adequate food security for the people of Barbados? How do we rise to these challenges? These are some of the questions that have been engaging the technical minds within the country and indeed, the MAR.
Bearing in mind the concept that ‘food is energy’, the Agriculture Ministry has made a commitment to increasing the level of the country’s food production and has taken steps to put programmes in place to assist us in honouring this commitment.
I wish to reiterate that the days of this country’s agricultural sector being placed on the back-burner are now over. This government is presently seeking to reinvigorate the sector and has allocated to the MAR funds amounting to $44 million. The sum of $6 million was originally granted to the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC). A further $8 million was recently placed at the disposal of the corporation. The BADMC is presently being restructured to enter into production and marketing on a larger scale. Being cognisant of the need for food sovereignty in the island, the MAR has drafted a “Food Sovereignty Plan” aimed at significantly raising local food production and reducing the level of imports.
In the midst of constantly rising price levels for food, fuel and agricultural imports, we can no longer look to imports to sustain our food requirements. The Food Sovereignty Plan articulates a set of policy initiatives aimed at ensuring that national food requirements are met, primarily through local production. These initiatives include:
My ministry remains committed to pursuing a policy of food sovereignty and food security for Barbados.
Without a doubt, the agricultural sector in Barbados is plagued with numerous constraints, included among these are the problems of competition for land; labour and praedial larceny and more recently, high global energy costs and increased climate change. These forces will expectedly impact on the islands food security. It is in this framework therefore, that my ministry has conceptualised a five (5) year Medium Term Strategic Framework for agriculture aimed at transforming and repositioning the sector through the promotion of an agri-business approach to farming.
One of my visions for the agricultural industry is to once again see the BADMC as a vibrant entity. As I mentioned earlier, plans are in progress for the restructuring of the corporation. Such plans will include not only increased marketing of produce locally, but also for the export market. The corporation is currently exploring the possibility of processing flour through the use of local produce such as breadfruit, cassava and sweet potato.
Unquestionably, the BADMC has a role to play in assisting our farming community. Farmers have so far, had a difficult year; apart from the adverse climatic conditions i.e. heavy rains and sweltering heat affecting their livestock and food crops, they have also had to contend with increased production and fuel costs.
The role of the BADMC could be played out through the securing of farm imports such as seedlings, feed and fertilisers and retailing these products to farmers at cheaper prices. A major factor in solving our food crisis is through the lending of assistance to farmers, as these can be regarded as paramount to achieving food security.
The youth of this country also have a role to play in alleviating the present threat to food security. It is recognized that the future development of a country’s agricultural sector lies in the hands of its youth. I therefore consider it crucial that our youth play a more active part, in our agricultural industry. The ministry will be responsible for training students in all aspects of agriculture including marketing, distribution, packaging and introduction to new technology. Plans are also in motion for the construction of greenhouses at the Home Agricultural Station in St. Philip, using the system where plants are grown in mineral nutrients and water, rather than soil.
Ladies and gentlemen when we speak of youth in agriculture, the 4-H Movement readily comes to mind. Government has already signalled its approach for the development of the 4-H Movement through the provision of an additional $100,000 which brings it to $200,000.
I am pleased to inform you that fourteen (14) new 4-H clubs have been recently formed, mainly at schools throughout the country. I have been told that the youngsters have been displaying active and enthusiastic participation in the programs being offered and many of them are eagerly looking forward to showing off their produce and work, at the next Agrofest.
The present situation has been compounded with the recent increase in the price of animal feed. This has resulted from rising fuel prices and the new demand for corn in producing ethanol.
We are now faced with the challenge of coming up with a substitute for corn to be used in the production of animal feed. The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) is currently experimenting with the use of cassava as an alternative to corn in the production of animal feed. The Society is also planning to increase as the production of the crop for use as food.
The challenge has also been extended for us to arrive at creative alternative energy solutions, in view of the spiraling oil costs. In this regard, the sugar cane grass has been identified as a viable alternative to corn in the creation of ethanol. In my estimation, this grass is more efficient in the production of ethanol than corn. The product has great utility and its potential needs to be explored further.
Barbados has a set a target of achieving 40% renewable energy in the overall energy consumption by the year 2025, and over the medium term, 30% of electricity production from renewable energy sources. In this regard, consideration is being given to the use of biomass from the river tamarind plant as an alternative source of green energy. This should prove to be a cheaper source of energy than fossil fuels, since the plant is widely available in the island.
Admittedly, climate change affects each one of us, and its residual effects more than ever brings this into focus, the whole purpose of the celebration of World Food Day. Through the selection of this year’s theme, the FAO has issued us with a challenge, the MAR has accepted this challenge and I can only trust that through our efforts and your support, we can reposition our agriculture sector on the pathway to attaining food security for the people of our nation.
To you awardees, I join with my ministry in offering you congratulations on your individual accomplishments and our encouragement for continued success in your future endeavours.
Ladies and Gentleman, I thank you for your presence, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening’s proceedings, I thank you.