By Machela Osagboro
An appeal is being made for more residents to join the national backyard farming programme in order to alleviate the domino effect that the COVID-19 outbreak may have on local food security.
Senior Extension Officer, Owolabi Elabanjo told OBSERVER that the Minister of Agriculture, Samantha Marshall, intends to expand the National Backyard Programme by donating 50,000 seedlings to homeowners at the end of the month.
“I had conversations with the minister to discuss what she intends to do to encourage homeowners to do backyard farming to supplement what the farmers are doing,” Elabanjo said. “The more we have the better it is with the situation on the ground.”
The extension officer added that while importation is necessary, the country imports vast amounts of dry goods and he is encouraging people to plant more tropical fruits and vegetables to assist farmers in supplementing local food production.
“Every tropical crop that can be grown in Antigua, whether at the farm level or the home level. will go a long way to help us in this situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, one vegetable farmer echoed the concerns raised by Elabanjo, saying: “We are gonna have a shortage of food and shortage of certain supplies that farmers will need, so it’s gonna impact us in every way; production is going to drop.”
The farmer added that Antiguans and Barbudans, “should see this as a sign to start to buy more local produce and encourage the farmers to produce more food”.
Elabanjo also urged residents to support the farmers by opting to buy more local produce from the markets and supermarkets. “Presently, the farmers are under a lot more stress because they are having a lot of problems getting food sold because of a number of reasons like competition from importation of food, and the market is too small for the number of farmers in Antigua,” he said.