On a recent trip to the Islands of Andros, which we previously called Andros Island, but learnt that is actually an archipelago within The Bahamas and not one single land mass, we visited North Andros and saw many sites including: coastlines, farms packing houses and work that is currently under construction for the Bahamas Agricultural, Marine and Science Institute (BAMSI). It’s amazing, how little as Bahamian we are aware of the true potential our country possesses until you visit the Family Islands. We realized that serious educational awareness has to occur. A group of islands, literally 15 minutes away via a small plane, holds a massive amount of investment potential just waiting to be tapped into. How do we ensure that the public’s current attention to agriculture translates into achievements for the Islands of Andros?
Public Sector buy in – The Government of The Bahamas has acknowledged the potential impact of the Islands of Andros as an agricultural hub, to our environment and economy, and is constructing a school that focuses on the study of Agriculture and Marine resources. We met a young Bahamian who was extremely knowledgeable about farming and particularly well-versed in developing green houses. How do we foster this topic in the Bahamian public? Integration in schools and incentivizing people to champion this industry is definitely a good start. With the labour required, the need to provide incentives to those who decide to become involved in this industry should not be ignored, especially if we intend to see a migration of Bahamians from the capital, New Providence, to the Islands of Andros.
Private Sector buy in – It was disheartening to visit a produce warehouse and discover that a lot of crops grown in our backyard rot due to logistical challenges or market quotas. There needs to be a buy-in to sell goods where Bahamian farmers know that their crop can go to various islands to be sold in stores. A distribution channel to other countries should be considered.
IDB Mission touring the BAMSI agricultural land.
Beginning the national discussion – A joke was made by one of the tour guides that the trick to getting a large crowd at town/public meetings is to reel them in with a topic of national interest that affects everyone personally and then when everyone arrives, fueled with energy and ready to battle, commence with the real issues; there will be participation. This is an opportunity for public and private partnerships to garner national attention.
Public Relations Campaign – We also need a comprehensive campaign that shows farming is not just ‘digging in soil. There needs to be a paradigm shift, so that Bahamians no longer view the agricultural industry as ‘menial’