Following a recent week-long agricultural tour and immersion experience in Jamaica, Agricultural Development Organization (ADO) Executive Chairman Philip Smith said The Bahamas could benefit from the learning experiences of its regional neighbour which produces a massive amount of the food consumed on island in addition to successfully exporting products.
“I was amazed at what I saw,” said Smith, “the complexity of it all in commercial farming and how well it was done. There is so much that The Bahamas can learn from Jamaica, especially in large scale farming and agribusiness.”
One of the most important elements, Smith said, is the level of commitment and engagement.
“In Jamaica, 25 percent of the labour force is engaged in agriculture. In The Bahamas, it is less than one percent and even of that one percent, the majority are over 60 years old.”
ADO is out to change that, restoring a sense of achievement and satisfaction in growing what you eat on a backyard faming scale and understanding the steps necessary to create a successful agribusiness on a larger scale.
Smith was a member of a delegation to Jamaica, which also included the Department of Agriculture, BAMSI and BAIC, and was led by Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting.
During the visit, Sweeting met with Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr., to discuss efforts to enhance the agricultural and fishing industries of both countries. The delegation also attended the Denbigh Agricultural Industrial Food Show, and visited various farming organizations and operations across Jamaica.
Smith said the poultry conglomerates were of particular interest to him, as he noted the potential in The Bahamas given that more than $60 million worth of poultry products are imported into the country annually.
Food insecurity has been a growing concern in The Bahamas, which is still grappling with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic that came on the heels of Hurricane Dorian.
And Smith said that in a country where 90 percent of the food consumed is imported, record inflation has only exacerbated the daily struggle of many Bahamians to put food on the table.
“It’s extremely important particularly considering what’s been happening recently with food prices,” he said. “The price of food has skyrocketed.
“During the pandemic, we saw that so many persons were food insecure. And today even, I would think that you may find that the number today is still close to 20 percent, as it relates to persons who are food insecure.”
ADO, which was launched in January with a $1.1 million donation from Bahamas-based FTX, plays an integral role in the effort to increase food security in The Bahamas.
The organization is committed to working with government and various sectors of society to support agricultural development with a dual goal of increased food independence and a healthier diet with less dependence on processed food and more enjoyment of freshly grown produce and food products.
Presently, ADO is focusing on its backyard, church and community faming initiatives, which Smith calls “a game-changing first step” in combatting food insecurity.
“We believe that persons who are food insecure can be helped by planting themselves to feed themselves,” Smith said. “So, we would not have to ask for so much money to buy food to feed the poor like we have been doing for years. We can now help persons to feed themselves as we assist them with farming in their own yards.”
Source: Diane Phillips Assocation