Mon | May 17, 2021

Backyard gardening gets boost from agriculture ministry

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 12:16 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Floyd Green (centre), minister of agriculture and fisheries, demonstrates that he knows something about farming when he planted a Scotch bonnet pepper plant in a pot during the launch of the Backyard Gardening Programme. Observing are Locksley Waites (left
Floyd Green (centre), minister of agriculture and fisheries, demonstrates that he knows something about farming when he planted a Scotch bonnet pepper plant in a pot during the launch of the Backyard Gardening Programme. Observing are Locksley Waites (left), agronomist at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and Robert Mille, member of parliament for St Catherine South Eastern on Friday, February 19.

No matter how small your backyard space, you can make a big contribution to the country’s food security as well as your personal health and development by planting vegetables like ockra, tomato, peas, beans, carrot, onion, callaloo, pepper, and scallion. These can be planted in recycled containers such as plastic bottles as well as discarded pots and pans. That was the main takeaway from the remarks of Marina Young, principal director, technical services at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) at Friday’s launch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Backyard Gardening Programme.

Noting that COVID restrictions had forced many people to stay at home, she said that engaging in backyard gardening would allow participants to learn to use their time gainfully in knowledge-sharing and could open their eyes to greater business opportunities.

“It is not only contributing, even in a very small way to food security in the country, it is, basically, improving your general health condition, your mental and spiritual health, and also many of you will find it so attractive that you may go into large-scale agriculture,” she told participants at the HEART College of Construction Services in Portmore, St Catherine.

“This is an opportunity also for the youth and elderly to get involved in backyard gardening … and you can share information with your neighbours as well as crops, so it really is a multi-purpose activity that benefits the entire nation,” she added.

The project is aligned with the ministry’s ‘Say Yes to Fresh’ initiative, which is centred on getting more Jamaicans to use more fresh, wholesome foods in their daily lives, for the economic as well as health benefits, according to Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green.

“Each of us has a role to play in the fight against COVID-19, and on the individual level, it is crucial that we eat fresh produce to ensure that we keep our immune systems optimally boosted.

“Given the high level of vulnerability that has been experienced with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we found it essential to renew this programme to assist residents across the island, especially in urban and peri-urban centres, to grow vegetables and herbs in small spaces in their backyards or other community spaces. In the instances where quarantine and isolation prove to be the necessary approach, we wanted to ensure that households would have access to nutritious sustenance,” he said in his keynote address.

“While our overarching objective is to improve the viability of the agricultural sector, we encourage all Jamaicans to play an integral role in reducing our food costs, and by extension, our import bill. In engaging our households in backyard cultivation of vegetables and herbs, we want to ensure that our people have access to affordable foods that can improve the nutritional component of the family diet and save costs.

“We increase the nutritional dietary consumption and physical activity of Jamaicans through gardening and crop care – especially under COVID-19 prevention conditions when public movement is restricted. We consistently contribute to our import substitution initiative, especially in the event of food shortage due to the impact of climate change, whether drought or prolonged rainfall,” Green said.

Jamaicans from across urban communities have been invited to apply online at www.rada.gov.jm to qualify for one of 2,500 free starter backyard gardening kits containing three packs of assorted vegetable seeds, a seedling tray, potting mix, fertiliser, and a small gardening fork and shovel.

Nine hundred anf fifteen kits are earmarked for St Catherine; with 750 going to Kingston and St Andrew; 350 for Manchester; 350 for St James; with 15 kits each going to St Elizabeth, Clarendon, St Ann, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary Trelawny, Hanover, and Westmoreland.

Applications close on Sunday, February 28, and successful applicants will be informed via email and directed to collect the kits at their respective RADA parish offices. They will be required to present a valid ID in the form of either a passport, driver’s licence, or Electoral Office of Jamaica ID.