The Agricultural Development Organization (ADO) today announced a donation of $50,000 in supplies to boost farming at government schools throughout The Bahamas, declaring the best time to plant the seed of an idea is when it has time to grow.
Announcement of the partnership between ADO Bahamas, the non-profit launched in January with a $1.1 million grant from FTX Capital Markets, and the Ministry of Education was made during a press conference at Ministry headquarters on Thompson Boulevard. The event was highlighted by remarks from both the Minister of Education and Technical and Vocational Training Glenys Hanna-Martin and the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Clay Sweeting.
“We are very pleased to share the good news that following numerous planning meetings and discussions with senior Ministry of Education officials in the agriculture in school program and our consultant, the Agricultural Development Organization will fund existing or new farming initiatives at 21 schools on six islands in The Bahamas,” said ADO Deputy Chairman Karen Casey.
“We are excited about this partnership which we believe will help plant the seed in the minds of many young people that farming is not just for commercial farmers, it is for all of us who are capable of growing something in our own backyard or within our community to contribute to national food security.”
ADO engaged in field visits to schools with existing poultry and produce programs and worked closely with a team headed by Patrice Green at the Ministry of Education developing the audit and inventory of needs. Those needs ranged from rototillers to shade houses, topsoil to chicken pen repairs. Several schools in New Providence operate successful poultry farm initiatives, selling eggs to generate revenue to support feed and other supplies while students benefit from the experience.
“Initiatives like those at CI Gibson and TA Thompson help to plant the seed of an idea when it has time to grow so whether the students who participate become poultry farmers on a commercial scale or raise chickens so one day their children will enjoy farm-fresh eggs, they will in their own way contribute to making The Bahamas a more food secure nation,” said Casey. “If COVID with high unemployment colliding with supply chain interruption taught us one lesson that we will never forget, it is this: that we must produce more of what we consume and one thing we can produce is much more of our own food.”
Casey referred to reports that The Bahamas spends $1 billion a year importing food.
“We have to do better,” she said. “And to do better, we have to restore a culture of farming, of experiencing the joy and the reward of planting and see the fruits of our labour at harvest. We have to learn how to access new markets and take Bahamian products to the next level, but one step at a time and assisting students is an important first step in the long walk back to farming as a beautiful way of life.”
Sweeting also lauded the initiative as a means to better address the issue of food security in The Bahamas.
“It is very important, in order for us to feed our country, that we start with the children as well as trying to develop a national plan,” he said.
According to the minister of education, the program has numerous benefits, ranging from the health of individual Bahamians to the sovereignty of the country.
“The more and more we think about this sovereignty and how we are able to feed ourselves, the more we position, strengthen and bolster our people,” she said.
“…It’s very important than we cause for our children and young people to begin to have some reality checks about what it is we need to do to advance.
“Agriculture is essential, and going into the schools is critical, because that is where you are going to change the world.”
Hanna-Martin added, “Our diet contributes to serious health issues.
“Culturally, we eat a lot of stuff that leads to chronic noncommunicable diseases and we have very high levels in this country.
“So, the more you raise awareness about the importance of eating fresh produce and fresh fruits, I think that you are also doing something else from the standpoint of public health.”
In addition to Executive Chairman Philip Smith, ADO operates with a full-time staff of three. There are 13 committees, each with a specific role, a board of directors and a steering committee that includes FTX Capital Markets President Ryan Salome, Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley, former Minister of Tourism and entrepreneur Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Foundation Director Dr. Ana Everette, developer Jason Kinsale, PR executive Diane Phillips and the chairman in his capacity. An advisory board of farmers is being created.
Schools that will benefit from the funds include CV Bethel, CC Sweeting, LW Young, DW Davis, HO Nash, Government High School, Anatol Rodgers, CH Reeves, AF Adderley, TA Thompson, Stapledon School, and Program Sure, all in New Providence. Family Island schools that will benefit include Huntley H Christie, Central Andros High and South Andros High, all in Andros, Preston Albury High in Eleuthera, Arthurs Town
Comprehensive and Old Bight in Cat Island, NGM Major High in Long Island and LN Coakley High in Exuma.
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