Have you ever met someone who always has a BIG idea?
l’m married to one!
A few weeks ago, hubby started talking A LOT about an idea that he was interested in pursuing. An idea called Victory Gardens to encourage Barbadians to grow their own food. I originally didn’t think too much of it but when I realised that this idea was here to stay, I started to do my own research about this Victory Gardens concept. Here’s what I found…
During the 1st and 2nd world wars, in the middle of a period which was marked by food scarcity and soaring food prices, a movement called Victory Gardens emerged. Out of a sense of duty and need, the average American was encouraged to grow food wherever they could, to support the soldiers and also to increase their food security. I admire the way in which everyone at the time was mobilized behind a common cause – to reduce the pressure on the public food supply. Parks, window sills and private lawns all became agricultural plots that carried a nation through a difficult economic time. In fact, Victory Gardens were also grown in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany during the war and sustained many a family.
By the end of the war, Victory Gardens had produced food valued at over US $1.2 billion! By May 1943, there were 18 million victory gardens in the United States alone – 12 million in cities and 6 million on farms.
So what does this have to do with Barbados?
Given our current economic problem, as citizens we must begin to see ourselves as part of the solution. After all, each of us through our spending habits and choices has contributed to the high import spend at a national level.
In a 2015 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the State of Food Insecurity in the Caribbean, it was revealed that Caribbean countries imported US$4 billion in food annually – a 50% increase over figures recorded in 2000. That same year, the Barbados Economic and Social Report stated that there was a decline in local vegetable production by 4.2% compared to the previous year. Vegetable imports consequently increased by 16.3%. Take a minute to examine the table below which records Barbados’ food imports in 2009 and 2010. Though a bit dated, this should give you an idea of how over time, our country got to the current point where our overall import levels were in excess of $ 1.6 billion in 2017.
|Food Category||Import value
|Meat and Edible Offal||37,052,117||48,865,741|
|Fish, Crustac., Molluscs etc.||22,846,217||23,789,190|
|Dairy Produce; Birds’ eggs etc.||42,445,017||53,497,567|
|Prods. Of Animal Origin N.E.S.||257,987||80,819|
|Edible Veg.; Roots and Tubers||20,507,241||24,765,640|
|Edible Fruit/Nuts; Citrus Peel||20,115,066||22,396,612|
|Coffee,Tea, Mate & Spices||5,709,048||5,635,302|
|Prods From Milling; Malt; Starches; Inulin||10,277,082||9,428,109|
|Oil Seeds Etc;Misc. Grains;Indus. Plants||25,727,848||23,137,094|
|Lac;Gums, Resins and Oth. Veg. Saps/Extract||448,083||508,241|
|Veg. Plaiting Mat.; Veg. Prods. N.E.S.||87,995||58,330|
|Animal/Veg. Fats/Oils/Waxes; Prep. Fats||18,670,050||18,836,747|
|Preps. Of Meat/Fish/Crustac.; Molluscs||21,543,736||18,312,121|
|Sugars And Sugar Confectionery||37,553,140||40,293,512|
|Cocoa And Cocoa Preparations||10,537,057||9,869,178|
|Preps. Of Cereals Etc; Pastrycooks’ Prod.||49,292,675||50,505,578|
|Preps. Of Veg./Fruits/Nuts etc.||37,980,888||38,964,281|
|Miscellaneous Edible Preparations||54,922,858||60,280,374|
Unfortunately I couldn’t find up to date figures at the time of writing, but I am positive that this figure has been exceeded. With limited foreign exchange, the continued spend on food imports can only dig a deeper hole in our economic recovery.
It’s time that we begin to put our hands to the plough…literally.
Like those who rallied around the call to produce food during the war, we too have a duty to work collectively to reverse this unsustainable situation. The Victory Gardens team (yes this evolved from just hubby’s idea to a dedicated team!) has begun to mobilise households, churches and communities to plant gardens. In essence, this is a call for every citizen to ‘do good’ for the sake of the country. Victory Gardens emerged as a project of a wider movement called In Light of Jesus Christ (ILJC) which seeks to cause people to stop and think about how Christ would view everyday life situations.
Wisdom should tell us that we simply can’t continue to spend our money on goods that leak foreign exchange while hoping for a change in the fiscal situation. If you are someone like me who struggles to keep a garden thriving, you’d be pleased to know that the Victory Gardens team will be organising training in the next few weeks to help you get started. For more information contact Adrian Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up to the Facebook group ‘In Light of Jesus Christ – Economic Lab – Victory Gardens’