By Makeida Antonio
There may be no greater time than now to illustrate the significance of food security in Antigua and Barbuda.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic reached the country in March 2020, many people have been negatively affected in one way or another. This was highlighted during the launch of Arbor Month this week where Department of Environment officials encouraged residents to not only plant trees to save the environment but plant their own food as well.
Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Environment, Ena Henry, said the government wants every household to consider the benefits of backyard farming.
“We would have heard and seen the effects of Covid-19. Some persons would have lost their jobs or have limited incomes throughout their households and so the push to get persons to realise that they must do more for their own food security, especially their backyard gardening and so on which you can have your own food that you grow to eat,” Henry told Observer on Thursday.
Henry believes that planting a few items to contribute to one’s kitchen can aid in achieving a holistic lifestyle which is necessary in these times of global uncertainty.
“It doesn’t take much effort if you go out and you plant a few okra trees and you plant your own pumpkin and butternut squash and cucumbers and so on in your backyard.
“A small patch can serve a household so, when we speak about food security, we are looking at the holistic standpoint of every household taking the responsibility for providing for their homes,” she said.
An added bonus of food security, according to the Permanent Secretary, is the cost cutting that comes with having a few less items to buy at the supermarket. She said that children can also participate in planting fruit trees and taught the significance of growing their own food at home.
“In the long term, if everybody in the household plays that role of encouraging every member of the family to basically seeing the significance of growing your own foods and also making that savings, because of now with the Covid effects, the rising cost of food is significant.
“It has almost doubled and so it must be significant for us to focus on starting our own backyard gardening and providing for our families within our households,” Henry explained.
Meanwhile, as Covid-19 numbers seem to be decreasing as vaccination numbers increase, the public has been cautioned against contributing to the level of pollution seen pre-pandemic.
When Henry was asked about trees and flowers visibly flourishing with less human activity, she said humans can learn about working with the environment and not against it.
“I think more than anything and it’s just not humans, I mean, the whole air was cleaner. Even the airlines for a short period were not flying and we didn’t have much movement of humans.
“Even on the high seas, you didn’t have all these humans coming out, giving off the normal pollution. So, I think generally, you’re talking about the trees but even the animals, the birds, they were out as if, well okay, we are reclaiming our space because we were on the inside.
“Yes, we as humans, that is a lesson that we can learn, that we must be responsible in terms of taking care of the environment and making it cleaner and greener,” Henry added.