The government of St Vincent and Grenadines has committed itself to ensuring the country is food secure during the difficult period of handling the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country has experienced food security challenges which are also caused by disruptions in international food supply chains.
At the time of writing a total of 690 infections have been reported, with two fatalities; given the doom and gloom elsewhere, the country still has a fighting chance.
A foundation which already had been laid at the onset of the pandemic last year, with local residents clamouring for a repeat from the government, as it benefited them a lot.
The government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour adopted a creative, innovative programme meant to benefit the most vulnerable in society – ‘The Love Box.’
Addressing Parliament, last June, the responsible minister, Honourable Saboto S. Caesar explaining the challenge of feeding the nation, announced food security initiatives in response to the impact of COVID 19.
Parliament heard that in a quest to achieve Sustainable Development Goal number two (2) namely “Zero Hunger”, the Minister said, “establishment of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund has created an innovative model to address the issue of the reduction of hunger. I thank today the Zero Hunger Trust Fund for the contribution of 200 vouchers to farmers valued at $500 each, and $15,000 to assist with direct support of food supplies to several vulnerable families.”
Farmer and single mother of three, Chakia Gills, a beneficiary of the programme said, “I was able to send my children aged 19, 12 and 6 years old to school, with the extra income.”
Globally, women are at the front line of Covid-19 response, their roles in the home as caregivers, nurturers of families means they shoulder a bigger burden than their male counterparts, even more complicated for single parents like Gills.
She learnt entrepreneurship, even made a profit, through the five month programme, selling some of her own home grown produce, carrots, ginger, edoes and cabbages.
“This programme benefited us a lot, we would want it back,” says Gills.
Consequently, for the ‘Love Box’ theme to resonate in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no better month than February, for the community to once again join hands in an act of love, with support from the government, build resilience while insulating against the devastating impact of the virus.
This year Valentine’s Day will be celebrated under a new normal, in which crowds and movement will be highly regulated, however, people will still need food, the innovation offered by the ‘Love Box’ can make it possible.
Nutritional levels play a crucial part in beating Covid-19, citizens must have easy access to good, immune boosting food, with the right mineral balance; that way a greater part of the battle will have been fought already.
The ‘Love Box’ was initiated last year just after the breakout of the pandemic, with the intention of supporting hardest hit vulnerable families. Steps taken by the government to ensure national food security since the breakout of the pandemic in 2020 include, the mass production of vegetable seedlings which were made available to farmers at subsidized prices, reported in the local media as the, “the first limb of the revised national production strategy targeting increased production and productivity of short term crops.”
The government has also been trailblazing in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, by initiating the Parliamentary Front against Hunger and Undernourishment.
Farmers were at the time permitted to have access to designated facilities and retail produce to persons wishing to purchase. This was under the SVG COVID-19 Food Producers Care Programme divided into three segments which were all operational from the four listed locations:
Establishment of Farmers Markets:
A farmer and teacher with the Richmond Vale Academy, who participated in the project last year, Tamas Gubicza, says, “the idea was very good. It came from the government to support local farmers, aiding with challenges such as transport.”
Gubicza says he saw very different kind of farmers, “Very poor people. Desperate people. ‘Love Box’ is gone and people question why.” He says describing the events which, “Lasted all day long. People bought farm produce and also gave to the needy. Farmers made good income every week.”
Gubicza goes further to explain his experience, “I sold passion fruit, breadfruit, golden apple, eggs, pigs, green and yellow banana. Everything we could find in our fruit forest.”
Another local farmer and musician, who participated in the ‘Love Box’ project and laments that it ended is Tishorn Edwards, “I was selling plantain and breadfruit, we were trading from Rosebank.”
He describes the 7 months of the programme, “It was a very rewarding experience. Was a great motivation to continue to farm, knowing that after putting hard work into your crop then you can harvest for an already provided market.”
Grace K, Richmond Vale Academy