Scores of backyard gardeners were given their kits on Saturday as Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Larry Cartwright launched what he hoped is the first step towards greater food security.

“This programme is simply the beginning as it seeks to foster greater participation by individuals in the production of food,” said Mr. Cartwright.

The kits included seeds, planting material, fertilizer, hoses, literature on gardening and a lime tree. Participants had the further choice of a mango or avocado tree.

They were given a crash course in gardening by Assistant Director of Agriculture Stan Smith and curator Basil Miller.

“In addition to its aim of reducing our reliance on imported food items and the food budgets of families,” said Mr. Cartwright, “this backyard farming programme will also serve to encourage better stewardship of the Earth, to create more green spaces and to introduce a generation of children and young people to the soil.”

He noted that around the world, the growth of urban farming can be attributed to the global food crisis.

Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture, for example, has fostered backyard farming as an approach to food security and as a means of reducing the food budgets of householders in the face of rising food prices.

Not long ago New Providence contained a variety of fruit trees, root crops, beans, peas, and an assortment of vegetables, he recalled.

“Where pumpkin and melon vines once ran, crab grass now exists and where pepper, mint, spinach, and sunflower grew, ornamental hedges now grow,” he observed.

However, the response to the Ministry’s backyard gardening programme has been overwhelming.

“I believe that this experience will be richly rewarding for you and your family,” he told participants. “You are encouraged therefore to treat your backyard farm as a family enterprise.

“Simple fruits and vegetables that we take for granted such as tamarind, guava, tomatoes, sweet peppers and others can provide economic benefits for us in many ways.

“Moreover, backyard grown fruits and vegetables are higher and richer in nutritional value…compared to chemically ripened fruits.”

He invited backyard gardeners participate in the agriculture expo scheduled for next February 26 through 28 at the Gladstone Road Agriculture Center.