With food security as its priority, the government of Antigua and Barbuda is pursuing a “different vision” as it moves to rebuild the agriculture sector of Barbuda which was destroyed following the passage of Hurricane Irma in September.
That vision focuses on improving resilience and dealing with the impact of natural disasters, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, the Hon. Arthur Nibbs said Friday. He was at the time delivering a statement to the 71st Special Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture held at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
The statement, titled Coping with Impact of Hurricane Irma ‘From Devastation to Restoration’ – Rebuilding the agricultural sector of Barbuda, provided some insight into what occurred on the island and details of the perspectives and programmes that will be employed.
Minister Nibbs told his colleagues that 99 per cent of homes on Barbuda were destroyed and 1407 persons were made homeless. The island became uninhabitable. Agriculture sector ruined. Crops, livestock, bees, the fishing industry, infrastructure, machinery and equipment were either wantonly destroyed or significantly damaged, he said.
“The achievement of food security is a priority policy for Antigua and Barbuda and consequently the Government has taken a decision to rebuild the sector with a different vision that embraces new perspectives and programmes geared towards the implementation of project actions that would improve resilience and confront the challenges facing food security within the region, especially those associated with the impact of natural disasters resulting from the effects of climate change.
This programme will contribute to the intra-regional trade being conducted under the OECS Agri – Shipping Initiative and the lessons learnt would provide a platform on which a disaster response model for agriculture recovery in vulnerable small island states can be constructed,” Minister Nibbs said.
Barbuda has adopted a ‘green island concept’ with alternative energy, particularly solar and wind,; organic agriculture and compliance with food safety requirements as the main features. Protected agriculture and specially designed smart greenhouses are the pillar son which resilience, readiness and sustainability will be built. The concept also utilises appropriate innovations and production technologies such as rational mechanisation, selected germplasm, efficient use of water resources and intensive systems for small ruminants. The concept will ensure that zoning and land use practices will not compromise the integrity of the environment. Minister Nibbs said value-added will be achieved through processing and packaging of products such as jams, juices, preserves, coconut oil and animal feed. The new approach will also focus on transportation to target markets to capitalise on the development of new air and seaports.
He told the Meeting that the “over-arching intent” of the Barbuda programme is to establish, over the next five years, an “agro-industrial complex of production, processing, storage, packaging and marketing”. Funding for the programme will be drawn from the Barbuda recovery fund, private investors, bilateral assistance from friendly governments, development partners and donor agencies.
In his statement, the Minister also expressed gratitude for the support his country is receiving.
“Sincere and heartfelt thanks and gratitude must be extended to all the Member States, agencies and institutions within COTED and to all our Brothers and Sisters in the wider CARICOM and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who not only supported us in our time of need but who continue to be a most welcoming source of encouragement, advice and prayers. The Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda appreciates, even more, your support and the firm demonstration of the strong culture of caring, sharing and giving and loving, that is embedded in the genes of Caribbean people.