ADO Bahamas and TCCFG held a press conference today, where 100 of the 5,000 backyard farming kits were distributed to 25 high school students and 70 applicants from the general public.
Minister of Agriculture & Marine Resources, Clay Sweeting delivered the keynote address speaking to the importance of growing our food as a means to eradicate food insecurity.
Sweeting, who has been steadfast in his commitment to increase food security in The Bahamas, said he is hopeful that this initiative will help to encourage the restoration of a thriving farming culture and community in The Bahamas.
“In light of the challenges that exist surrounding the availability of fresh, wholesome foods, I continue to encourage backyard farming as an affordable alternative to provide families and communities the opportunity to feed themselves,” Sweeting said. “The Agricultural Development Organization and The Church Commercial Farming Group are assisting in bringing about the change we need to feed our people.”
Sweeting noted that he is particularly enthused to see the interest in farming among children, noting that students from Bahamas Academy, Faith Temple Christian Academy and R.M. Bailey Senior High School were among recipients of the kits.
“We have to grow a healthier nation,” said Sweeting. “Distribution of these backyard farming kits can benefit schools, churches, neighbourhoods and the wider community and will connect communities in ways unimagined.”
A number of church representatives as well as representatives from major feeding organizations were also present at the event. These organizations will be used to identify food insecure persons that can benefit from backyard farms in various communities.
The Church Commercial Farming Group (TCCFG) Chairman Reverend Pat Paul said it is his hope that continued collaboration between the various sectors of society will have a deep impact in addressing this issue.
“I am extremely delighted with the partnership forged between TCCFG and ADO,” he said. “As we work together to empower our people through the medium of agriculture, it is my prayer that together we impact the social fabric of our communities, and indeed our nation, as we address national food security.”
Since the backyard farming initiative was announced, more than 200 people have applied for kits.
The initiative is part of a larger effort by ADO, which was launched at the start of this year, to support agricultural development for greater food independence.
With the cost of living and inflation continuing to be a major issue for many Bahamian families, ADO Executive Chairman Philip Smith said he is hopeful that the organization can help to provide a stable and sustainable local food production industry.
“It cannot be overstated how impactful growing our own food would be as it relates to our sense of security as a nation,” Smith said. “The less we rely on international markets to feed our country, the more we can ensure that no one goes to bed hungry.”
According to Smith who has been feeding the hungry for 17 years, the last nine of those through the Bahamas Feeding Network before moving to the NGO whose eventual goal is to ban hunger through agriculture, as much as 20% of the population of The Bahamas faces the plight of too little to eat.
Today’s distribution was the first in an ambitious plan that Smith hopes will in the next few years lead to 50,000 backyard or community farms.
“We only need to raise $2 million to provide enough farming kits that one in every four families or households in The Bahamas will grow what they eat and eat what they grow,” he told the audience.
Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) Office Administrator Nicolette Fountain Archer, who was also in attendance at the event, said steps like these are important in helping to address what she believes is a hunger crisis in The Bahamas.
“We at BFN have been trying to bring awareness to this very real and growing problem for some time now,” Fountain Archer said. “Serious attention is needed if we want to create a Bahamas in which nobody has to wonder where their next meal is coming from and initiatives like this one from ADO and TCCFG can play a big role in this effort.”
ADO’s executive chairman, Philip Smith noted, “We have been giving people fish for a while now and it’s not solving the crisis. Now we are teaching them to fish, or rather to farm, so that they can begin to help themselves for a lifetime.”
At Hands for Hunger, one of the most well-known feeding centres in the country, executive director, Keisha Ellis said that results of her organization’s annual survey on food insecurity show that their work, along with that of other likeminded organizations, has helped keep food insecurity at bay. But she noted that a sustained and continued effort is needed to adequately address the issue.
“People always ask me about working with food insecure people when they are at their lowest and does it makes me feel pessimistic and my response is always no,” says Ellis. “I wake up every morning optimistic and knowing that this is a battle that we can win.”
In a country where nearly 90 percent of the food consumed is imported, food security has been at the forefront of national discussion in recent years, with crisis after crisis highlighting the urgent need to reduce The Bahamas’ annual food import bill of more than $1 billion.
Both governing parties have highlighted the need to focus on increasing food production in The Bahamas in an effort to move towards greater food independence.
Launched in February with a $1.1 million donation from Bahamas-based FTX, ADO has already become a driving force in that effort, committed to working with the government and various sectors of society to support agricultural development.
“At ADO, we are dedicated to doing what we can to increase farmers’ access to resources for the betterment not only of them, but the entire nation,” said Philip Smith, ADO Executive Chairman.