The Bahamas imports about millions of dollars worth of food annually, according to Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Hon. Michael Pintard. He said: “We have the opportunity through import substitution to change that. Import Substitution means that many of the things we are importing we can substitute through [local] production.” Min. Pintard was one of the speakers at an informal press conference on Friday, January 17, 2020 at St. George’s High School Gym, where Min. of State with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness, Management, and Reconstruction the Hon. Iram Lewis re-launched the Backyard Farming program, which has been successful in his constituency of Central Grand Bahama.
Also present at the event was District Superintendent of Education for Grand Bahama, Mr. Ivan Butler, as well as students and teachers from schools taking part in the program. “I wish to congratulate the Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama for playing an important role in helping the Commonwealth of The Bahamas engage in import substitution,” said Minister Pintard. “Producing many of the items that we have the capacity to, that we are importing. “Minister Lewis, the step that you are taking represents a strong initiative that we believe can create job opportunities, income generation, and [reassurance] that we know exactly what is in the food that we are eating.”
In order to restart the program, Minister Lewis said four schools have been selected: They include Bartlett Hill Primary, Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High, St. Georges Senior High and Lewis Yard Primary School. “One thing that I always thought was important was to empower our people, and one way to empower ourselves is to be able to feed ourselves,” said Minister Lewis. “One of the initiatives I took on in Central Grand Bahama was the backyard farming program. We want to encourage backyard farming. We want to get it going again. And we thought the best way to get it going was to bring it through the schools.
“We want to encourage you students who will be taking part in this program to use the technology that you use in school, make it your ambition to have your own backyard farm and grow your own products.” Minister Pintard noted that the talk about food security is not just about producing the quantities required to satisfy domestic demand, but also about producing the right kinds of food for good health. He pointed out that during the month of February, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources will launch an aquaponics plant growth project.
“In addition, we are going to help each of your schools to expand your farming program, so that you can become a nursery to supply your surrounding areas,” said Minister Pintard. “You can count on a subvention from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources to help supplement what you are doing already. I can guarantee that each of us here today ate something this morning. There is something that you consume every day that we are paying someone in another country for, that we ourselves can produce.”
He encouraged all of the students enrolled in the program to take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the program. He also encouraged them to give consideration to studying in depth some area of agriculture or marine resources, noting that it is a rewarding endeavor. Minister Lewis and Minister Pintard presented representatives from the four schools with starter plants for their schools’ respective backyard farming programs, along with a number of farming tools, including spades, wheelbarrows and gloves. Among the plants handed out to the students were tomatoes, peppers and other herbs. “About a month or a month-and-a-half from now, I will be visiting your schools and looking at your gardens to see how the plants are progressing,” said Minister Lewis. “We are planting a seed and you will ensure that at the end of the day, there will be a harvest.”