Forbes magazine has highlighted the implementation and benefits of Jamaica’s backyard farming movement, an activity that was actively promoted by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative economic impacts it brought to individual income and the national economy. The experience of Jamaica offers an excellent example of how to use social protection systems effectively in response to a crisis. Many vulnerable people in Jamaica reaped the benefits of food and cash aid offered by the government through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Planning Institute of Jamaica, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Services (MLSS) with the support of the World Food Program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaicans addressed problems of reduced income and limitations on the freedom of movement by starting backyard farms as a way to relieve stress and attain food security. According to a survey by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the World Food Program conducted in August 2022, 15 percent of Caribbean households currently engage in farming their own food, and in Jamaica, the growth of backyard farms has provided protection for the most vulnerable populations and aided in bringing relief from the economic downturn that resulted from the pandemic in which 57 percent of Jamaicans experienced disruption in their incomes, with food insecurity a significant issue.
In response, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) headed by Floyd Green, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, distributed 2,500 backyard farming kits throughout the country in February of 2021. The kits provided various seeds, including okra, tomato, peas, beans, carrot, onion, cabbage, callaloo, pepper, and scallion, along with a seedling tray, mix, and fertilizer to encourage the growing backyard farming movement. Green wanted Jamaicans to be directly involved with growing their own food and took advantage of the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The movement is welcomed in Jamaica, a country that has a strong dependence on food imports. Between 2019 and 2021, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica found that the island imported over $3 million in food, most of which came from the United States. The imports go toward supplying the tourism and restaurant sectors in Jamaica as well as its population of some 3 million people.
The movement has been a welcome development against the backdrop of almost exclusive dependence on foreign food.
The backyard farming movement in Jamaica has improved its food security by promoting the engagement of its citizens in growing food for their own consumption. This saves them money and also improves health, nutrition, and general well-being. Read the feature at Forbes.com