IDB Meets With Minister Sweeting

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Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Hon Clay Sweeting, Parliamentary Secretary Leonardo Lightbourne met with IDB Country representative Daniella Carrera Marquis. The trio discussed numerous opportunities for the IDB to assist with the development of Agribusiness, Fisheries and Family Island expansion. (Photo/ Stephen Hanna)

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Representative Daniela Carrera Marquis recently visited Minister for Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon Clay Sweeting to discuss a number of initiatives geared toward The Bahamas’ goal of food security. Among those in attendance was Parliamentary Secretary, Leonardo Lightbourne.

During the meeting held at the Ministry, Ms. Marquis noted that the IDB has examined numerous funding opportunities. “We have several projects that are related to agribusiness already. We have a project that is in Grand Bahama and it’s about managing the sustainability of conch with the local communities.

That project is being implemented through the Bahamas National Trust and it was very much affected by both Dorian and COVID-19. We have extended it so that we can some more relevant results there and so that we can allow them to have a real source of living, but in a sustainable way to help them to protect the conch,” she said.

“We were also looking at fisheries because The Bahamas has so many coastal areas and fisheries is just a small part of it. We were on the basis of analyzing and refining it, but now we need the input of the new government to see if this is something of interest. We were looking at the legal framework and potential land development based on what is out there. We just thought of fisheries because The Bahamas based on the coasts, has a very small fishery industry compared to other countries that have the same mass.”

She mentioned that the IDB is also keen on the development of Agribusiness in The Bahamas. “We are also looking for ways to bring Agribusiness from the Family Islands like growth of produce and how to make them commercially viable. We’ve been looking into SMEs that can be transformative in the area of Agribusiness not just in New Providence but in the rest of the Family Islands,” she said.

Ms. Marquis said the IDB is also hoping to offer opportunities for expansion in the Family Islands.

“We were looking into something called the Family Islands investment funds to see if there was a way to bring a critical mass of investment that could really trigger private sector investment not just from The Bahamas but internationally,” she said. Additionally, the IDB developed an energy loan designed to generate more energy in the Family Islands.

“This loan was designed prior to Hurricane Dorian. When Dorian happened, we used part of the loan for reconstruction in Abaco and parts of Grand Bahama. But the idea is to create some microgrades in some of the Family Islands in a way that they not only serve to have more energy or access to cleaner energy, but also to provide the data. We had proposed 20 different microgrades in several islands,” Ms. Marquis said.

Minister Sweeting said he was pleased with Ms. Marquis’ suggestions because they fall in line with the mandate of the Ministry. “I am very intrigued that the IDB is interested in Agribusiness and Family Island development and we are looking forward to collaborating with them to increase development in the Family Islands with not just tourism but how it can tie in with marine resources as well as Agriculture,” Minister Sweeting said.

“In the Family Islands there is a challenge with electricity. Renewable energy is something we really need to look into especially with clean energy not just with the IDB, but with the Ministry of Environment that would have to facilitate renewable energy sources in the Family Islands.”

Minister Sweeting also said that he was pleased that IDB is interested in developing fishing. “The investment in fishing is definitely something that we must continue to capitalize on. It has been an astronomical year in fisheries but there are other markets such as stone crab and other
sources of fish that we can possibly export as well as to sell domestically.

I think that we just don’t have the push to get us over the edge, so we are looking to do that within the Ministry and the Department of Marine Resources. I am hoping that within the first quarter we can put something together whether it’s investment opportunities, research or development to see what the possible scenarios are where the IDB can facilitate some of our goals at the Ministry,” he said.