Saturday, January 31, 2009

GARDENING WITH MALAYSIAKINI: critical for nations survival

In assessing the possible impacts that the widespread financial and economic crises may have on the nation’s economy, Prime Minster Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas has stressed the importance of subsistence farming to protect nationals in the case of a deepened recession in the larger economies.

Dr. Douglas told SKNVibes that small-scale gardening is one definite way of reducing the domestic reliance on high-priced food and that a movement toward large-scale farming can undoubtedly reduce the nation’s dependence on imports.

“There is no question about it that if we are able to grow most of what we are eating here then it could impact on the importation of food which continues to be a challenge to us and which of course will be exacerbated at this time of crisis when money is going to be short. We have a situation where one can be encouraged to grow what one is eating and as a result of that one does not have to go into the supermarkets to get such food supplies.

“If you are producing on a higher level,” he added, “you may be able to make a relationship with the small grocer. We would also have situations where we try to establish relationships with larger farmers and the hotels to ensure that there is a reliability of produce.”

“The Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, in an effort to enhance this new thrust, will provide the necessary packing and sorting facility so that small farmers can take their produce there, prepare, package and appropriately store them and even have them for sale to those who may wish to consume.”

PM Douglas explained that the government initially launched its Food Security/Backyard Gardening programme in September 2008 during the Independence Agricultural Exhibition, as it was recognized that there was a growing need for the nation to produce enough food to satisfy the local market. He informed that with the aid of the Taiwanese Embassy, the Government would be able to move the agricultural drive to “a higher level”.

“The Taiwanese Embassy is just about to start a major commercial farm. I link that with food security and the backyard gardening because it is expected that farmers who potentially would have gained some experience from the backyard type of farming would now be able to simply demonstrate that skill by taking a small area in that agricultural zone to do their farming.

“The Embassy will prepare farmers with irrigation, equipment and even seedlings. And so we are asking small farmers who have an interest in that area to simply turn up there after going through the necessary checks and join the pool of small farmers who can really apply their experience and their own initiatives in the development of our food security plan.”

Douglas underscored that there are several public education programmes including a radio show from the Ministry of Agriculture which reminds the public of “what we are producing, what we can produce and how the Department of Agriculture can assist in this regard”.

The Prime Minister further stated that there has been a concerted effort to link the new agricultural thrust with fitness and healthy diets so that “we can have the best in terms of our own preparations for healthy living. Of course linking agriculture with health is one of the ways by which we are packaging the initiatives in agriculture with the public”.

By VonDez Phipps