Minister Sweeting: “Farming will become a highly sought after career path”

(BIS Photo/Eric Rose)

From: Bahamas Information Services

The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute Bill 2022 has been tabled in the House of Assembly. During his presentation of the Bill on 16th February, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting said this is a necessary step in meeting the government’s objective of bringing food security to the country. During his presentation, he said the government’s plans will provide the avenue for farming to become a highly sought-after career path.

“When BAMSI is at her fullest potential, the economic impact on our country will notice the change,” said Mr. Sweeting. “ BAMSI and the affiliate farmers program have shown us only a small bit of her potential thus far. Our annual food import bill from America continues to be in excess of 620 Million Dollars, almost 1 billion dollars globally! This is a high price tag! Imagine being able to reduce this bill and reinvesting the savings in the growth of the agriculture, mariculture, through science and technology.”

He said that this staggeringly high food bill has compelled the government to introduce THE BAHAMAS AGRICULTURE & MARINE SCIENCE INSTITUTE BILL, 2022, which is being implemented to lay the educational foundation for the future of agriculture and marine science in the country. This bill provides the legal framework and guidelines for the operation of the institution.

“Upon the passing of this bill, BAMSI will be able to operate at 100% functioning capacity. This bill will give the President, and Board of Directors of the institution autonomous control over the affairs of BAMSI, aligning it on par with other institutions nationally and internationally.”

He said that the BAMSI BILL 2022 would now give the institution the legal framework to solidify agreements with other educational and research institutions as it attempted to enact with the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School.

“BAMSI can now see these types of relationships established and provide expert training, research and instruction that our students need to grow the Agricultural and Marine sectors in this country.”

Minister Sweeting said that this bill would legitimize BAMSI as an educational institution for science and research. “It will NOT be a farm selling produce to compete with local farmers. BAMSI’s students will however, create marketing plans and value chains as it pertains to research and agri-business planning. They will create models for Bahamian Farmers that make sense.”

Through data collection, science and technology, he said students would be able to place a monetary value on items grown or produced at BAMSI.

“We all know and have seen farmers around that world that have become millionaires, the Perdues and Idaho Farms, and Green Giants of the world exist everywhere but in The Bahamas. Students at BAMSI will provide the economic model for our farmers to grow to international standards and rival other conglomerates. Farming will be a highly sought-after career path. We are bringing SEXY back to farming.”

He stated that BAMSI would provide much needed research to be able to expand the country’s growing capacity, collaborate with other institutions for an exchange of knowledge, and expose budding farmers to educational opportunity right in their own ‘big yard.’ The Minister also contended that BAMSI could and should provide a seed repository and have thousands of seedlings available to transport to any island at any given time. “We have seen the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian. We know and understand that we have to tailor our own solutions to climate resiliency in farming. We must be able to build our seed repository, we must increase our animal stock, we must ensure that we have a hatchery, we must ensure that we are self-sufficient.”

The Bill, according to the Minister would also remove the “undue influence” that parliamentarians/ministers and government have on the daily operations of the institute.

“No more calling the Member of Parliament or the Minister to influence who gets accepted, hired or fired. The Board of Directors and the President can together pursue relationships with other reputable institutions to promote, position, and strengthen BAMSI, they can create opportunities for BAMSI to create income and expand programs.”

The Bill will also set the legal framework to ensure that the actions of the Board of Directors and its President is transparent and accountable. He said that the Board would be required to submit annual reports of the institution’s progress.

“The Board will be mandated to prepare a full audit no less than 3 months following the beginning of each fiscal year. The reporting of which will be laid onthe table of this House.” Transparency and accountability expressed the Minister, would be the order of the day! Minister Sweeting also paused to publicly welcome and introduce the new President of BAMSI, Senator, the Hon. Dr. Erecia Hepburn. She will serve as the first female president of this institute.

“Doctor Hepburn comes to us with a vast array of knowledge in the field of agriculture and life sciences, sustainability and environmental management. Dr. Hepburn is a graduate of Tuskegee University, and Clemson University where she received her Bachelor’s degree, then Masters and Ph.D. respectively. We have no doubt that with her expanse of knowledge, her network of professionals, Dr. Hepburn understands the challenges and will work collaboratively to ensure that BAMSI is among the top tier of institutions for Agriculture and Marine research.”