By RASHAD ROLLE
AN Agriculture and Marine Institute will be established in North Andros to ensure the food security of the country, Prime Minister Perry Christie said.
During his budget address, the Prime Minister spoke at length about the institute’s proposed School of Agriculture, saying it is now in the process of being established.
He said the project will boost employment rates in addition to helping alleviate the country’s dependency on foreign imports.
“In the initial development phases the project will employ nearly 100 persons in the construction and development,” he said, adding: “The farm operations will employ 180 persons at various level of expertise during its operation. The academic programme will employ 60 to 100 persons on full time basis, boosting the economy of North Andros.”
Mr Christie said the institute will offer an associates degree and diploma in agriculture, as well as proficiency certificates, and will become an “integral part of the College of the Bahamas.”
“An analysis of agricultural development in developing countries has shown that adequate investment in agricultural education increases output per worker by several multiples even if land area per worker continues to decline,” he said.
“The Bahamas imports nearly $1 billion in food annually. As examination of the agriculture infrastructure reveals an aging population of farmers who in the main do not employ improved technologies and the knowledge of modern day agricultural practices eludes many due to the unavailability of training systems. The infrastructure to protect farmers and assure market access does not exist. Based on these realities it is safe to say that there is no formal system to train persons in agriculture.
“This gap has created one mishap, and that is the paucity of human resources to develop, protect and assure a food production and supply infrastructure and ipso facto the assurance of food security in the Bahamas and also to include the management of agriculture related investments such as turf and fodder grass, nursery, landscaping and agro processing.
“An orientation in agricultural education at secondary, tertiary and professional development levels has been recognized to be of national importance if meaning and effect is to be given to the articulated policy for the primacy of food production and food security. The institution will require 400 acres of land and will include a germ-plasm bank where facilities for teaching, practicum and applied research will be provided, and a tutorial commercial farm and demonstration facilities.”
He said adjunct faculty will be hired to instruct students in specialised areas of agriculture.