Akhepran Partners with Western Kentucky University to Launch Farm Technology & Construction Program

The first ever Farm Construction & Technology Program has been launched at Akhepran International Academy during a ceremony held at the school on Monday, May 15, 2023. Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources & Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting was the guest speaker.

An initiative at Akhepran International Academy is being touted as a perfect match for the country. Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting was in attendance during the launch of a ‘first of its kind’ program at the school: the academy launched the first-ever Farm Technology & Construction Program, in partnership with Western Kentucky University. The event was held on the evening of Monday, 15th May at the school’s campus.

Minister Sweeting said that initiatives such as this one significantly assists in promoting the government’s agenda of positioning the Bahamian people with the ability to feed themselves. “This is an exciting day in agriculture, and indeed the country,” said Minister Sweeting. “The Bahamas is currently experiencing a renaissance as it relates to agriculture, therefore, we deeply appreciate efforts to advance the objective of being able to feed ourselves.  Initiatives such as this program directly correlates with what the government is trying to achieve,” he said.

The Minister said that given that education is the cornerstone of any progressive society, all measures must be considered in order to empower students to participate in advancing the country’s agenda. He admitted that the government recognizes that there is an abundance of opportunity available for students outside of agriculture and that the industry has not been able to fully attract young people.  Despite that, he said that the importance of agriculture should not be minimized. 

To this end, he stated that the government and stakeholders in industries such as agriculture must find innovative ways to attract young farmers and to support and keep veteran farmers, noting that a program such as this one epitomizes the direction that has to be taken. Mr. Sweeting pointed out that 80 percent of Bahamian farmers were over the age of 60, so the country is counting on young people to pursue opportunities in agriculture. 

The Minister also encouraged the directorate at the school to find innovative ways to tap into the government’s recently launched ‘Golden Yolk’ initiative, which focuses on the farming of eggs. He said that currently the country has an annual consumption rate of 28 million eggs but only 7,000 eggs are produced locally. In the current budget, the Minister said $1.6 million was granted as an incentive to farmers, 30 percent of which was allocated to poultry farming. 

Dr. Fred DeGraves, Chairman of Agriculture and Doctor of Veterinary Sciences, Western Kentucky University, said that he and his team were excited to partner with the school in this new program, and looked forward to working with the students. 

The newly launched program will feature courses in landscaping, feeding mills, and the construction of chicken coops, pig pens and storage facilities. 

By: BETTY VEDRINE/Bahamas Information Services

Pictured from left: Consultant, Bridgitte France-Ingraham (Director for the Program); Dr. Fred DeGraves, Chairman of Agriculture and Doctor of Veterinary sciences, Western Kentucky University; and Minister Clay Sweeting. (BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)