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Increased investment in rural development for food security

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On Monday, October 16, the nation joined in the global observation of World Food Day, which was first established in 1981 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This year’s theme was ‘Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development’. Although in developing the theme, the FAO may have had at the back of their minds people who have been forced to leave their homes due to increased conflict and political instability, the theme is still relevant to us here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Here, we are quite familiar with the phenomenon of people shifting away from working within the agricultural sector and moving into Kingstown and its environs in search of supposedly more glamorous jobs. And in the region, we have witnessed over the past few weeks, the movement of our Caribbean neighbours who have been displaced as a result of extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Over the past few years, more and more persons have been complaining about the decreasing availability of healthy, fresh, locally sourced produce in the market and the various supermarkets. And not only are the complaints about quantity, but also variety and quality.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is blessed with fertile soil, and we should be taking advantage of this. Produce that can be grown here should not have to be imported. How many times have you dined at a restaurant, only to be disappointed when your dish contains pre-packaged vegetables?

Buying local not only ensures that your food comes from a trusted source, but also gives tourists a taste of our culture. After all, why travel abroad only to eat the same produce that is available to you at home?

But how do we make the agricultural sector more attractive to our young people?

The FAO has pointed to increased investment in rural development to address factors which compel people to move away from the land. Agriculture is an excellent means for self-employment. Individuals are not only in full control of how much they earn, they also provide employment for others.

It is important, also, to acknowledge those who wish to farm, but cannot through lack of land. There are countless plots of uncultivated land owned privately and by the Crown. Perhaps a ‘land bank’ initiative can be forged, where those who are in need of land can lease from those who own. Both parties benefit.

And if large-scale farming is not your cup of tea, kitchen gardening may be a better fit. As well as providing for one’s household, one may supplement one’s income by selling to neighbours and/or co-workers.

The expectation is not that every Vincentian will turn to agriculture as a means of income; rather that more persons will get involved. The sector appears to be stagnant, or growing slowly at present, and an influx of new persons will not only increase earnings, but also introduce new ideas, and reinvent old ones.

If done right, this thrust to promote family farming will create an atmosphere of inclusion that keeps future generations interested in the sector, and ensures food security for Vincentians for decades to come.

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