Michael Pintard, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources said that his ministry is has developed a series of programs to offset some of the challenges being experienced by our citizenry.
In his national report Thursday (October 8), the minister noted that the threat of disruption in food supplies and potential for drying up of resources needed to import food created tremendous anxiety for many Bahamians.
Following is the minister’s report in its entirety:
"It is a privilege on this occasion to present a report to the nation on the initiatives and performance of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marines Resources since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are acutely aware of the hardship being experienced by a large segment of our society and my Ministry has developed a series of programs to offset some of the challenges being experienced by our citizenry. The threat of hunger and loss of income due to the downturn in the economy guided our considerations during this crisis.
The threat of disruption in food supplies and potential for drying up of resources needed to import food created tremendous anxiety for many Bahamians. Especially so since our population is aware that much of what we consume comes from elsewhere in the world. Being keenly aware of the $600 million annual food bill plus another $400 million spent on processed foods we developed a plan of action to reposition the role of agriculture and Marine Resources on the priority list of our government. One part of this effort was to develop a National Emergency Food Production Plan.
PORTFOLIO AS MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND MARINE RESOURCES
My portfolio is a diverse one, which gives me responsibility for the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Marine Resources and Department of Cooperative Development and three State Owned Enterprises, namely, – the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), and The Bahamas Agricultural Health and Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA). My responsibility also includes Agricultural Lands, Public Markets and Regattas.
We are a resilient people. Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 crisis have provided an opportunity for all of us, policymakers, community and civic leaders as well as ordinary citizens to consider food security in its four dimensions, that is (a) guaranteeing that sufficient food is available for every citizen and resident, (b) maintaining economic and physical access to food, (c) ensuring that food is utilized for the benefit of the body, providing sufficient energy and nutrients for daily activities (d) and finally supporting the stability of food systems to withstand economic, environmental and social shocks and changing conditions.
Despite the challenges this year, we are moving forward with a spirit of optimism. I am encouraged by the engagement and support of my technical staff as well as the range of persons locally and internationally, old and young, intimately involved in agriculture and spectators, that there is a desire to deliver tangible results to the Bahamians on food security. We intend to put in place the initiatives and programs that will result in the development of a ‘Resilient Agriculture and Fisheries Sector’. As we move toward building resiliency, we will require three areas of focus from my Ministry and its stakeholders. First, we must be transformational with respect to our willingness to adapt new technologies throughout value chains, from production, logistics, processing and services related to the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Secondly, as Dorian and COVID-19 have demonstrated, we must embrace digitization of processes and services for the agriculture and fisheries sectors. As we roll out E- Agriculture strategy, like the access to veterinary services using the telemedicine technology or the on-going efforts to put services online, we need all stakeholders to embrace these changes. Thirdly, we must be creative and open to business the opportunities for diversification within the agriculture and fisheries sectors whether it be agro-tourism, production of edible flowers, composting, food from seaweed, and other opportunities in the blue economy. This crisis has opened up digital market opportunities to micro and small enterprises throughout our archipelago as businesses all over the world migrate to digital platforms. Studies have shown that ‘The Bahamas’ is a brand internationally recognized and we know that issues of environmental and social sustainability are driving the decisions of consumers and we must be willing to incorporate these concepts in our agriculture and fisheries systems as we move forward.
We have been implementing since March, a National Emergency Food Production Plan to improve food security at the community and household levels. The 2020/21 budget has allocated $9,000,000 to food security initiatives, six million in the recurrent budget and three million in the capital budget. This plan has a number of components which we will continue to implement into the new fiscal period. Our Policy and Planning Unit has played an integral part in the formation and execution of these initiatives.
(VO - NEFP Budget Graphic - 46)
Component 1 – Expansion of crop production
This component addresses the intensification of root crops, vegetable and fruit production through the provision of inputs such as land clearing and seeds/planting material on all islands with specific emphasis on North Andros, Abaco, Grand Bahama, Cat Island and Eleuthera. We have spent $869,474.36 on land clearing in time for the upcoming planting season. This is an ongoing program and this year's allocation is four hundred thousand ($400,000.00). Over 5,000 cassava sticks have been distributed to approximately 276 farmers over 40 islands and cays. This program is ongoing.
(VO - BAMSI's cassava and sweet potato giveaway/land clearing - 1:30).
Component 2 – Incorporating greater use of green technologies. This involves making available technology that simultaneously increases productivity and expands the availability of local products. The application for vertical hydroponic systems that target young farmers and interested persons are in country and are currently being distributed. The training on the construction and use of these systems has commenced. Additionally, the 2020/21 budget has allocated an additional $100,000.00 to the Department of Agriculture to demonstrate greenhouse technologies.
One hundred systems will be distributed to farmers on nine islands. The systems are being subsidized to farmers at a cost of $2,053.19, inclusive of equipment, seeds and training. Monthly installments of $171.10 will be paid back over a period of twelve months beginning 120 days after operation.
(VO - Hydroponics demonstration - 1.14)
Component 3 – Supporting Layer Production
The Department of Agriculture is supporting a program to increase the availability of local eggs by firstly strengthening the production capacity of existing layer producers through the provision of chicks and feed and secondly by supporting new producers on the Family Islands. The first phase of this program is well on its way and the application for persons interested in the second phase will be available on the ministry’s website. Similar to the other programs, support to growers will be provided through an online platform.
It is envisioned that eggs will be produced in sufficient quantities to provide a protein source within communities. In total by years, 22,000 chicks with sufficient feed for up to 26 weeks will be given away. To date, 7,346 chicks have been distributed across eight islands to farmers and schools.
(VO - Layer Program - 1:26)
Component 4 – Backyard Gardening
We are re-establishing the Backyard Gardening Program to support food security at the household level. Our approach of making available to households, backyard garden starter kits inclusive of irrigation systems, seeds, seed trays, fertilizer and enriched soil, has proven to be wildly popular.
Phase 1 saw the distribution of five thousand of ten thousand kits and another ten thousand will be added. Kits have been distributed in Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Inagua and New Providence thus far. Kits are also available at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources Headquarters at a minimal cost of $10.00 each.
Upon completion of phase two – 20,000 kits willbe distributed throughout the country by years end. Members of Parliament will receive 100 kits each for distribution throughout their constituency. Churches, civic organizations and the general public have also had access to kits.
(VO - Photos Backyard Garden Kits - 3.33)
Component 5 – Support to food processing to reduce food waste.
We are supporting the Food Technology and Safety Laboratory to provide food processing training and advice on post-harvest storage of targeted crops since not all of the products targeted will meet fresh produce grade. Cabinet as approved a series of measures to enhance the sector. We will be posting information on these training opportunities for home gardeners and cottage processors to our website.
(VO - Food Processing - 1:04)
Component 6 – The Feed Mill
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has produced a request for proposal to engage in a public private partnership (PPP) to aid in the modernization of the Animal Feed Mill which will strengthen local food production systems, as well as provide a quality animal product for the Bahamian market. This PPP seeks to address a capital needs, infrastructural and operational challenges currently faced at the Feed Mill. We have assisted many livestock farmers with some free feed to ease their burden during this pandemic and will resume this practice tomorrow for those facing challenges feeding their animals.
Monitoring the impact of the National Emergency Food Plan (NEFP) and its impact on food and nutrition security in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Every seed distributed through our backyard gardening kits and hydroponic systems conforms to the National Dietary Guidelines.
We are reviewing the legal and regulatory environment to support the implementation of the NEFP and create the necessary linkages between agriculture and other sectors of the economy. I will outline some of the major policy decisions emanating from this review. Cabinet has agreed to:
- Require that investors in our tourism sector, by way of the Heads of Agreement, purchase 40% local agricultural and marine products. This also applies to existing hotels, wholesalers, retailers as well as other purchasing entities; and
- Mandate government institutions/entities to purchase 75% of agriculture, marine products and processed food from local farmers, fishers and consumable food processors and manufacturers.
(VO - Graphics Component 8 - 1:00)
Our international relations have also contributed to our efforts. The Kingdom of Morocco donated 14 tons of high quality fertilizer for distribution to Bahamian farmers. Distribution of the fertilizer is ongoing.
Additionally, our partners the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) are providing technical assistance to farmers through its experimental farming of cassava, peanuts and sweet potatoes as well as training and testing of the composition of soil throughout The Bahamas. IICA has also been instrumental in providing many of the seeds for our backyard gardening starter kits. Agribusiness persons have benefitted from workshops on composting.
Training using various online platforms has also been incorporated in our approach. Hundreds of farmers in The Bahamas and the world logged in to our six-week training program on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS). The program was a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, our Policy and Planning Unit and Bahamas Agricultural Health and Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA) and was hosted by the Commonwealth of Learning website in Canada.
(VO - Photos - International Partners - 1:30)
Department of Marine Resources
NEW DRAFT FISHERIES BILL 2020
The Department of Marine Resources has completed its review and editing of the New Fisheries Bill 2020, which is intended to replace the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act 1977. The New Fisheries Bill, which is intended to be futuristic, will address matters relating to the sustainable use, sustainable development, and management of fisheries resources, and the marine environment. Further, the New Bill will ensure The Bahamas fulfils its obligations to the global and regional community being a signatory to a number of international conventions. The New Bill Fisheries also seeks to define and legitimize the Department of Marine Resources; legitimize the Director of Marine Resources and his officers; and ensure stakeholder involvement in the decision-making process in matters which impact them and their livelihoods. The Draft New Fisheries Bill is presently at the Cabinet of The Bahamas. I expect to table this bill in the House of Assembly later this month.
AMENDMENT TO THE CURRENT FISHERIES ACT 1977
In an effort to maintain the commercial fishing industry as the exclusive domain of Bahamians, the Government of The Bahamas has moved to amend the current Fisheries Act of 1977, which would prohibit non-Bahamians from working onboard Bahamian registered commercial fishing vessels in any capacity. In addition to the amendment of the Fisheries Act, it has also caused the harmonization of the Bahamian Immigration Act, which would ensure the non-issuance of work permits by the department to any foreign individual or person to work as crew onboard a Bahamian registered commercial fishing vessel. The proposed amendments are presently with Cabinet.
2020/2021 CRAWFISH SEASON OPENS
The 1 August 2020 marked the opening of the 2020/2021 Crawfish Season. The season will run from 1 August 2020 to 31 March 2021. To date, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has issued some 844 compressor permits to Bahamians, who have applied to utilize air compressors for the capture of crawfish. No compressor permits have been issued to any foreign national to use for fishing purposes in The Bahamas. This year marks the second consecutive year, no compressor permits have been issued to foreign nationals to engage in crawfishing. (VO - Graphics - Lobster Season - 2:06)
NATIONAL DIVERS TRAINING PROGRAMME
As COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, the National Training Agency in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources will recommence plans to continue with its certification training program for Bahamians interested in becoming certified as compressor divers. February of this year (2020) saw the graduation of some 26 young Bahamians, who participated in the first National Divers Training Program in New Providence. The next training session is slated for residents of Grand Bahama, the date to be announced. It is intended that the training program will be taken throughout The Bahamas as the government continues in its effort to ensure a cadre of Bahamian divers are available at all times to work as crew onboard Bahamian commercial fishing vessels.
WORK OF THE STONY CORAL TISSUE LOSS DISEASE TASK FORCE
One of the challenges that lie ahead for The Bahamas is another disease that has largely gone unnoticed by the public. Since late 2019, there has been an outbreak of what is known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. This suspected bacterial disease was first discovered in Florida in 2014 and has since been detected in a number of countries in the Wider Caribbean. Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease was also seen for the first time in The Bahamas during late 2019 on the south coast of Grand Bahama. In March it was confirmed that the disease was widespread on the south coast of Grand Bahama. It may also be present in other parts of the country. This disease is a problem because it has a very high mortality rate and it affects over ten species of corals. Recall that corals provide a home for many of the fish species and lobsters that we enjoy. Corals also provide protection from storm surge and they are a part of what attracts tourist to The Bahamas. In response to the disease, Cabinet has approved the formation of a task force to mitigate its spread. The Ministry of Tourism recently approved to underwrite the cost of an assessment of western New Providence, where the disease has also been spotted.
MARINE PROTECTED AREAS (MPAs)
Prior to COVID 19, the Ministry was preparing to declare 43 new or expanded protected areas. It remains important for such areas to be established. They will enhance the protection of the marine environment, including added protection from overfishing. Many do not realize that not all protected areas disallow fishing. Some of the proposed areas will still allow recreational or subsistence fishing to the benefit of nearby communities. Some will require no fishing. Ultimately it is expected that protected areas will improve food security and secure the additional benefits that results from a healthy environment. The Ministry still intends to declare a number of protected areas during 2020. The ones that were requested by communities will be among the first. The work continues.
You may recall during the 2018/2019 fiscal budget period I reported that the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) acquired three (3) inshore 24ft. Boston Whaler “Justice” marine patrol crafts, and during the 2019/2020 Fiscal Budget, another craft was purchased. During Hurricane Dorian, two (2) of the boats were destroyed. I am happy to report one of the crafts has already been replaced and is presently being rigged. The second craft is expected to arrive this month. Once again, the crafts are intended to act as deterrents to would be law breakers.
As you are aware, two Dominican fishing vessels were apprehended by HMBS Lignum Vitae on 17th October, 2020. The fishers were brought before the courts on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th September, 2020 where the entire 81 fishers pled guilty to breaches of Bahamian fisheries laws. The fishers were fined a total of 1.9 million dollars and the vessels, fishing gear and other fishing apparatus were confiscated and turned over to the government of The Bahamas.
(VO - Dominican Poachers)
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS ASSISTANCE TO THE DMR
In April of this year (2020), the DMR sought funding and technical assistance from the Nature Conservancy through its technical assistance program. I am pleased to report that funding and technical assistance have been provided to the DMR for two (2) projects. The first project will commence the groundwork for the formulation of the New Fisheries Rules & Regulations, which will complement the New Fisheries Bill soon to be enacted; and the second project will assist in the establishment of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Piloting Project for fishing vessels intended to assist the department in safety of fishing vessels, and fisheries enforcement.
(VO - National Dive Training Program - 1:01)
BAHAMAS AGRICULTURE AND MARINE SCIENCE INSTITUTE (BAMSI)
Since COVID-19, the demand for food changed i.e. less wholesale purchasing due to hotel closures. BAMSI's Distribution Center changed marketing strategy due to the fact that people had less money to spend on food. In response, products such as pumpkin, banana, tomato, okra and sweet potato, which would normally sell in bulk, were boxed in $20 portions. This allowed many persons to access and afford nutrient dense food.
On 16th March, 2020 the Government mandated that all schools, colleges and training agencies be closed with immediate effect. Therefore, our students were released to return home as quickly and as safely as possible. All staff and faculty remained to implement our Emergency Procedures Protocol. Teaching transitioned to fully online during lockdown, using our Student Information System Populi.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduation originally scheduled for 16th May, 2020 had to be postponed. As the restrictions were lifted the virtual graduation was pre-recorded and aired 3rd July, 2020 on our Facebook page and on ILTV news station. Thirteen graduates were conferred their degree, with the 2020 Valedictorian, Agriculture major Mr. Aaron Francis being bestowed the honor.
(VO - BAMSI's Graduation .45)
Due to the postponement of national exams including BGCSE, we have amended BAMSI's Admissions Policy for Fall 2020 for those who may not be able to meet the current admissions criteria. BAMSI will use the high school transcripts and the results of the Placement Exams in Math and English to determine eligibility into various degree programs. Students who place below the college-level entry will be admitted into BAMSI's College Prep Program. Cabinet has agreed to allow for free tuition at BAMSI, in alignment with government's decision regarding the University of The Bahamas and Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI).
The capital works to complete the campus continued and it is expected that work will be completed during this fiscal period.
BAHAMAS AGRICULTURAL HEALTH & FOOD SAFFETY AUTHORITY (BAHFSA)
COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges to BAHFSA and in an effort to overcome them BAHFSA has initiated several projects geared towards improving the resilience of the Agricultural Health and Food Safety System of The Bahamas. They include:
- E-governance transition- This project entails the implementation of an e-permitting and e-inspection system. This would accommodate paperless and virtual permitting and inspections. Coupled with virtual inspections BAHFSA can maintain strong protections of animal health, plant health, and food safety while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
- Virtual training- BAHFSA planned to host several trainings for the private and public sector but has had to swiftly reformulate all its curricula into virtual training sessions. This allows for participants to benefit from the training wherever they are located and allows for BAHFSA to ensure that enforcement actors are trained to address animal health, plant health and food safety issues.
THE BAHAMAS AGRICULTURAL AND INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION (BAIC)
I now turn to The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC).
BAIC continues to carry out its mandate to encourage and stimulate development of small and medium sized businesses throughout The Bahamas by leasing land and properties for commercial and industrial projects, training and advising entrepreneurs and branding and marketing assistance to businesspersons to help reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Due to damage caused by previous hurricanes, the Packing Houses located at North Andros, Long Island and North Eleuthera have received much needed repairs. Cat Island and Hatchet Bay will be addressed during the course of this year.
BAIC continues to manage a large portfolio of property and land holdings in New Providence, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Gladstone Road Industrial Park and the Soldier Road Industrial Park. The Soldier Road location is being redesigned and upgraded to provide a feasible business climate, allowing entrepreneurs lease rental spaces in various square footage to suit their business needs at affordable rates. In our estimation, this location presents the best opportunity to provide consistent revenue flows to assist with the operational expense of the Corporation while contributing to the economic development of the Bahamian economy. In the short, medium and long term, the Corporation will construct building rental space on every remaining vacant land at the Soldier Road location.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic the Produce Exchange on Soldier Road has remained open. Additionally, the market at Gladstone Road has extended its operation to include Friday and Saturday, and is well appreciated by those persons seeking fresh and organic fruit, vegetables, meat and locally processed items.
(VO Market at Gladstone - .40)
BAIC has also played a pivotal role in gathering and storing critical data relative to crop forecasting and growing patterns throughout the country. This data is invaluable for buyers to determine what will be available for the local market hence enabling them to reduce imports. The team has also helped in determining the national storage capacity for dry, refrigerated and frozen.
I am also pleased to share the fact that due to this pandemic and the increased interest in AgriBusiness, BAIC has seen a tremendous increase in the request for business plans.
Department of Cooperatives
Strategic focus continued to be placed on developing cooperatives in several emerging industries in our economy. The Department will endeavor to fulfill its mandate to promote ownership of competitive and adequately supervise Cooperative Enterprises by insuring adherence to Law, International Standards and Best Practices.
Four new cooperatives have been registered. Three (3) with focus on Agriculture and value-added products (1 - Grand Bahama, 1 – Eleuthera and 1 – New Providence) and one (1) forestry and value-added products cooperative in Grand Bahama. Presently we are progressing four (4) other cooperative groups which we anticipate registering before year’s end.
(VO Cooperatives - .54)
The Department of Cooperative Development has stepped up its efforts to ensure every Bahamian is an investor in the cooperative sector. The school co-op program
has grown tremendously. The 2020 – 2021 academic year comes with its challenges especially in this COVD-19 environment. The department is adapting its school Co-op Program to ensure its sustainability. Virtual meetings are being advanced until such time as face to face meetings can happen. This vital youth sector will be further developed and undergirded to foster greater unity, motivation, training of the youth in agriculture using the technologies of hydroponic and aquaponics, enterprise and development of products to be produced and sold by the students and succession planning.
Investment in the youth sector is vital for the further advancement of the agricultural sector. My ministry is partnering with the Ministry of Education to bolster the agricultural programs in the country. Students in twenty-two schools will be trained in aquaponics and hydroponics. With the increase agricultural activity due to COVID-19, it is important for our producers to have an owner structure that a co-op can provide.
The Government has agreed to provide the land needed to facilitate the expanded production and processing of cascarilla thus, increasing its value to local producers as an export product.
We are also pleased with the continued development of our Apiary Sector through increased financing granted by the Office of the Prime Minister on Grand Bahama. In addition a space is being allocated to the Beekeeper's Cooperative in the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources building and plans are entrained to provide land to the practitioners. Cascarilla and honey are two of the most financial viable products that can be grown in The Bahamas and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary for our local producers to capitalize on them.
POLICY AND PLANNING UNIT
The Emergency Food Plan was created to expand local production in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is currently being supported by The Policy and Planning Unit with the following initiatives aimedat strengthening the country’s food and nutrition security position:
- Climate Smart Agricultural Technologies/Innovations and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) - the Ministry is currently seeking ways to increase usage in both agriculture andmarine sectors while achieving sustainable development goals.
- Statistics/development of a Marketing Information System (MIS) - data collection and analysis has been improved to aid in forecasting information hence, better decision making. The Unit has begun work on a MIS to provide better data for all stakeholders of the sector. This project is a collaboration between the Policy and Planning Unit and BAIC.
- Extension and training -This is a critical component of a successful expanded agricultural sector. Training has begun and it is hoped that additional extension officers will be hired soon to assist in the same. Technology i.e. agricultural apps will also be utilized to provide pertinent information to farmers.
To further assist in the expansion of the sector, the unit has been assigned the task of assisting in the strategic development of potential investments. The following items are being done to facilitate this:
- Assisting agri-entrepreneurs in all aspects of business formation via business advisory and project evaluation services.
- Collaborating with industry stakeholders for sustainable investments.
- Coordinating with Atlantis for a producer-buyer program for the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for its guests.
- Collaborating with Department of Forestry on Pine Forest AgriWaste management project including the formation of Cooperative with young Bahamians to begin processing of salvage.
- Work closely with Hon Mark Humes in the coordination of consultations with food stores, hotels and restaurants and will support the collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism to ensure that Bahamian agriculture and Marine products are consumed by guests. Furthermore, ensure that our artists and artisans sell their creations to our visitors.
The unit is also the liaison for International Agencies such as FAO, IICA, IDB, PLACA and CARDI and the following initiatives are ongoing:
- FAO has two major projects on-going valued at a combined total of $400,000. The projects were initially approved following Hurricane Dorian, however, they will greatly enhance the sector during this pandemic as they are to assist in rebuilding the fisheries and agriculture sectors.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources (MAMR) is currently a part of IICA’s pilot program for AgriExtApp (an app to digitize agriculture extensions services). Initially, the app will focus on livestock, however, it is hoped that the app will be expanded to include extension services for crops. This App is expected to go live at the end of October, 2020.
(VO AgroEXTApp - 1:00)
AGRO-VILLAGE TUTORIAL FARM
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources (MAMR) in collaboration with the Young Agriculture Professional’s network (Cultur.Vate), and an assortment of Agri-Business persons, have designed a sustainable food and agriculture model that would transform our current way of producing, processing and consuming foods. The AgroVillage Tutorial Farms provide an innovative model that will be replicated on five (5) other islands in The Bahamas. It is an ecosystem of complimentary agriculture and aquaculture enterprises that takes advantage of new technologies. Tremendous focus will be placed on data collection, archiving and analysis. Aside from the various enterprises the New Providence, AgroVillage will feature a Welcome Center (WC) which comprises a meeting room, computer lab, retail facility, Agri-Tech/Business Incubator, Deli and Café and office. In addition to the WC there will be a Testing Lab, Packing House, rest rooms and storage facilities. The AgroVillage is designed in response to challenges such as climate change, limited access to land and freshwater, increasing population growth, food waste and nutrition insecurities. My Ministry proposes to retain the Volcani International Partnerships for the design phase of the project.
(VO - AgroVillage 1:20)
My Ministry also has the responsibility for the administration and supervision of agricultural crown land in Abaco, Andros, Grand Bahama and New Providence and by extension all land that is attached to The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC). Under my Ministry’s purview, relevant agricultural land leases are executed/issued. The moratorium that was placed on the granting of leases for agricultural crown land has been lifted and applications are being processed.
We are in discussions with young Agri-business persons who have viable projects and in some cases, the resources required to proceed. We are excited about the reformation that is taking place throughout the Nation.
National Road side Vending Transformation Program.
The committee to standardize stalls and procedures for street-side vendors throughout The Bahamas has been established and includes the relevant Departments and Authorities in my Ministry, as well as other relevant Government Ministries such as: Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of the Environment and Housing (Department of Environmental Health Services), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Security (Royal Bahamas Police Force) and the Office of the Attorney General.
The committee has completed its preliminary work and discussions with the various stakeholders, and we are pleased with the progress made to date. As an update, my Ministry has completed:
The proposed zones which are adapted from the National Food Distribution Task Force. The sites are recommended as follows:
• Zone A – Fox Hill Park and Eastwood Park
• Zone B – Pinewood Gardens Park and R.M. Bailey Park
• Zone C – Christie Park and Old City Market Site (Market Street)
• Zone D – The Market at Gladstone Road and Coral Harbor Park
• Zone E – Adelaide Park and Gambier Park
• The proposed Guidelines for the Market at Gladstone Road will provide the regulatory framework for all other markets
• The Bahamas National Code of Hygienic Practice for The Preparation and Sale of Street Foods will be presented to the stake holders for consultation
• The proposed date to commence this initiative is 2nd November, 2020.
North Andros Unregulated Development
The Inter-agency committee to investigate the North Andros Shanty town has been established and includes the relevant Departments and Authorities in my Ministry, as well as other relevant Government Ministries such as: Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of the Environment and Housing (Department of Environmental Health Services), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Security (Royal Bahamas Police Force) and the Office of the Attorney General.
The Committee continues to work within the guidelines set out by the Office of the Attorney General. While the numbers of illegal immigrants in the unregulated development have dwindled, we are still pressing ahead to eliminate this unregulated development so that we can restore the agricultural land for the purpose it was intended, FARMING by registered and approved farmers.
The Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration is continuing its investigation of the undocumented migrants there.
On 5 March 2020, the notices for occupants to vacate the land expired so the Ministry is now ready to take legal actions against those who have not vacated the property.
All illegally constructed buildings will be dealt with.
The Department of Environmental Health Services will assist in cleaning the property of garbage and derelict vehicles.
Marine Vendors Sites include:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources is also responsible for the supervision and management of the Arawak Cay/Down Home Fish Fry, Potters Cay Dock Vendors and Montagu Dock Vendors. All these sites have resumed operation with the relevant safety protocols. We have vigorously made the case that these entrepreneurs should be permitted to operate while following the strictest guidelines.
My Ministry is working with our various stakeholders especially farmers, financial institutions and buyers to dramatically start or increase production of the 77 agriculture products that IDB studies revealed we can produce competitively in order to reduce our reliance of foreign imports. We can over the next three years shave more than 200, 000.000.00 of our food bill. We can more than quadruple agriculture and marine resources contribution to GDP. The collective will of our people, the genius of the Bahamian collective, and the hard work of those of us who know that our competition is global therefore our work efforts and quality must be world-class.
We have been working to fix the gaps all along the value chain so that we not only reduce imports but we become net exporters in a number of areas. The excitement and enthusiasm of the public to invest in agriculture and marine resources encourages my team and fuels our effort to improve ease of doing business.
We have been and will continue to be relentless. It is this spirit that has influenced us to hold consultations with farmers on most of the islands with high concentration of farmers in order to share our vision and plan of action and to address concerns farmers may have. We work for you and wish to serve you better.
We will continue to support fishers, both subsistence and commercial fishers as you generate employment and wealth for your family. We applaud you for gradually reviving sponging and exploring the harvesting of underutilized marine species.
Our Ministry’s collaboration with GBPA, Local Government, farmers and other stakeholders is producing several Community Gardens in Grand Bahama as we speak. Whenever we have pulled together as a country we produce results that encourages the national spirit and improves our fortunes as a nation. The Ministry’s collaboration with the Church Community has unleashed a massive demand for back yard farming kits, support for community and commercial farming initiative throughout the Bahamas. Our national feeding program is increasingly buying from farmers and fishers to help nourish our people.
Our Ministry is partnering with Ministry of Health and Education of improving our school feeding program. We are working hand in hand with Ministry of Education in putting green and shade houses in at least forty (40) schools by year’s end. We are working with Ministry of National Security to put corrections land under cultivation to benefit stakeholders.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the team at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources for their hard work despite the ravages of COVID-19 which interrupted our work often. Your sacrifices enabled us to achieve what was mentioned earlier plus the following additional approvals from the Cabinet of The Bahamas:
- Permission for joint venture with Agri-business persons to develop the National Slaughter House System and processing facilities.
- Strengthening the National Laboratory System for plant, animal and Marine and food testing.
- Infrastructure for the Development of the Food Processing Sector
- Development of Five-year Agriculture Food Security Sector Strategy
- Strengthening the Infrastructure and Ecosystem for Agriculture and Marine Resources financing with the Private Sector, domestically and internationally.
- The appointment of a Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) representative to sit on the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources’ business review committee.
- Collaboration with Israeli and Dutch Agriculture and Energy experts to develop AgroVillages on six (6) islands.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has had an unintended but welcomed influence on the Bahamian attitude toward agriculture. Our country need fundamental structural adjustments and diversification. The Agriculture and Marine Resources sector despite the devastation of Dorian and COVID has answered the call and stand ready to work collaboratively with a sense of urgency to change our nation/s fortunes. By the grace of God rebound from where we are today. Fight the cynicism, resist the temptation to give into national and personal self-pity of depression. Use the energy generated by anger we sometimes feel as fuel to work harder and smarter. We can be in control of feeding ourselves, producing much of what we use in our national life. May God continue to bless you and this special country he has entrusted in our care.”