THE Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute is continuing to make strides towards creating an environment of self-sufficiency for The Bahamas and promoting agriculture and fisheries to competitive global levels, according to a spokesman for the project.
The Bahamas recently became a member of the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) just a few weeks ago, with BAMSI as its local agent.
BAMSI ambassador Godfrey Eneas said that modernisation of the administrative structure of agriculture and fisheries is essential to its future progress, because the sector was disconnected from the leading policy and technological changes which were being initiated by regional, hemispheric, and global institutions.
He stressed the importance of the diversifying the economy and elevating the agricultural sector to the third economic pillar of economic growth and development in The Bahamas.
“With a national debt of US$5.1 billion or 60.41 per cent of GDP, the urgency for economic expansion is now and agriculture and food production sector is the only real and present opportunity,” Mr Eneas said.
“Mixed signals are, however, being sent in the economy which creates uncertainty in the minds of the investing public. For instance – the recent reduction in duty on basic foods and the maintenance of high duty on the inputs for food and agricultural production – this is counter-productive and has the potential to frustrate the BAMSI idea if it is not quickly redressed.”
Over the past 37 years, some 80,000 acres of farmland have gone out of production. Mr Eneas believes the key reasons are lack of investment in training, technology adaptation, poor policy environment and lack of credit.
Until the creation of BAMSI, he says, the agricultural sector was in a state of collapse and the nation’s food production system was in crisis.
He said BAMSI represents “the revitalisation, resuscitation and rejuvenation of a sector which has been going downhill over the past four decades”.
Forty-five students from nine Bahamian islands are enrolled in BAMSI programmes for agriculture, marine science, and aquaculture. There are specialised courses such as plant protection, soil science, agribusiness and entrepreneurship, farm management and summer internship.
There have been many collaborative visits from institutions like the University of Miami, University of Florida and University of the West Indies. The institute is a residential campus offering housing, a meal plan and various activities, as well as a student club, the Agriculture and Marine Society of The Bahamas.