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EDITORIAL: Green scheme is well worth exploring

WHEN COVID-19 first hit our shores, there was a move by a number of Bahamians towards growing more food in our own gardens – rather than deal with long lines, empty shelves and the risk of infection.

It was a good idea, not least of all because of the amount of food we import in this country, and it’s a welcome sight to see that seed being allowed to grow further with a new backyard farming scheme.

It’s not just backyards – it’s also communities and churches – but it’s the kind of thing that can not only help to provide people with food security, but also bring people together.

The goal is to start up to 500 backyard farms, with as many as 4,500 more to follow within a year.

Money provided so far will go towards purchasing supplies, providing support staff and getting things under way.

Agricultural Development Organisation executive chairman Phillip Smith said: “This is an exciting day when, for the first time in our history, we in The Bahamas are making it possible for thousands of backyard farms to be started without any cost to those who want to farm.

“We look forward to seeing in the not too distant future, thousands and thousands of backyard farmers as well as many community farms and church farms throughout The Bahamas as we plant the seed for greater food security.”

Farming kits will include soil, seed trays, seeds, and fertiliser. If it is a success, who knows, perhaps it could go on to offer land in the form of community allotments, giving people a chance to cultivate without having their own land.

Agriculture Minister Clay Sweeting said: “We can feed ourselves, it’s not impossible. Food security as you saw in the budget is a top priority for my ministry and the government and we are working assiduously hard to achieve this goal.”

Now we may quibble about what some of the priorities for the government might be – with items such as campaign finances and citizenship lost a long way down the line – but a government should be able to do more than one thing at a time, and this has the potential to be a relatively low-cost, but productive scheme.

Keep track of the funds, make sure none are frittered away needlessly – and take the next step too, by offering venues for farmers’ markets as this new wave of growers find they have products to sell.

All told, it’s a green thumb up for this idea.

Straight talk

Last week, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis was riding to the rescue, or at least claiming to do so, on the cost of living.

Fidelity Bank CEO Gowon Bowe has a level-headed view of things in today’s Tribune, saying we all need to be realistic about what the government can and can’t do about inflation.

You only need to look at the food imports mentioned above, where our import bill is $1bn a year. If inflation hits food prices in the countries we’re importing from, there’s precious little we can do about that knock-on effect here at home. The same goes for fuel, for building equipment, and so on.

Mr Bowe said: “We look at countries like the United States and some of the European countries and we hear about their governments taking certain actions in response to inflation, but the reality is they actually compose certain elements of inflation.

“In The Bahamas, it is important for us to further understand some of the fundamentals.

“The first thing is we don’t produce what we consume so that means all that we’re consuming, we import and because we don’t produce things, we don’t control inflation.

“It means that the cost of food and the cost of textiles and the cost of fuel and oil price which we, for lack of a better word, import and inherit.”

Beyond that, Mr Bowe points out that we do not run at a surplus in our public finances, so we don’t have a reservoir of cash which we can help ease matters with. Add to that a debt that is stacked up higher than our Gross Domestic Product and there’s little that can really be done.

Credit to Mr Bowe for his plain talking – it is refreshing to hear.