Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Coronavirus pandemic has threatened many aspects of human life, and food security is no exception. Through sustainable agriculture, farmers can provide a constant supply of healthy nutritious food, be it meat or fruits and vegetables for public consumption. This was made evident on ‘Working for You’ on Wednesday, February 24, which focused on the theme, Sustainable Agriculture in Challenging times.
Ian Chapman, Crops Programme Leader in the Department of Agriculture, stated, “A sustainable agricultural support approach to our ministry will ensure and make our food system more productive. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged our farmers and… to find new ways of creating or improving our nutrition and our market opportunities…we need to transform and re-balance the way food is produced here within the Federation”.
He added that the production of local crops and the harvesting of local meats help to eliminate the unhealthy chemicals that are placed on imported food to preserve them until they reach into the consumers’ hand. The availability of locally grown food ensures that there is a healthier supply of food to satisfy the citizens’ needs for food and nutrition, additionally, it reduces the fear that citizens may face about the unavailability of food due to the import-export challenges associated with Covid-19.
According to Mr. Chapman, “we are promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune system”. Unhealthy eating has far-reaching consequences that surpass the individual and places a strain on the public health system. The panellists agreed that eating healthy helps to minimize the presence of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, that are associated with the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Mr. Chapman said that one key initiative by the Department of Agriculture to help promote healthy eating is the “Farmers Agriculture Assistance Programme that will assist farmers in enhancing their productivity”
Further support by the Agriculture Department to promote food security and healthy eating as noted by Director Melvin James, focused on preserving the lives of the livestock through the Tick Prevention Programme. He noted that “we were able to make good strides in our Tick Control Programme, in our Pest Surveillance and Disease identification…”
Over the years, the Tick Prevention Programme which started in 2018 has contributed significantly to the preservation of livestock. Drawing a parallel to demonstrate the effectiveness of the programme, Mr. James stated that the presence of ticks on the animals didn’t just affect the skin of the animals but also their survival. He noted, “We had like 1230 animals that we lost; 308 goats, 290 sheep, and worse, affected cattle, over 600 cattle.” Taking the initiative, the department was able to reduce the presence of ticks on the animals and subsequently the mortality rate, thereby ensuring the security of meat for consumption by locals.