By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI) is “well on its way” to sustaining the food demands of the country according to a delegation of agricultural ministers from CARICOM states.
Agricultural ministers from Jamaica, Bermuda, Belize, Guyana, Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines joined Bahamas agricultural and marine science minister, V Alfred Gray, and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) regional representative, Dr Deep Ford, on a comprehensive tour of the 800-acre Andros development yesterday.
Dr Ford called the multifaceted facility “the revitalisation of regional agriculture”, adding that the project illustrates the possibilities of food production by the Caribbean. The group was able to view BAMSI’s 12,000sqft administration building, $1.8m cafeteria, eight-room classroom block, female dormitory, an almost complete marine zone and thriving farming plots.
Dr Ford applauded the quality of vegetation being developed, asserting that crops being generated are “certainly” on par with international standards. “The development here should be praised,” he said.
“This entire facility shows what possibilities are obtainable if we continue to invest in the needs of our people. This goes to show that self-dependency in regards to food and adequate nutrition is possible in this region.”
He expressed his eagerness to see the compound operating at full capacity. “The expertise in agriculture, fisheries, plant production and cattle development is obvious. At this stage, you can identify exactly what is capable and work to enhance all of the projects here.”
Engineers on site yesterday confirmed that the facility is being constructed on schedule despite a number of setbacks. One source explained that portions of the site could be up and running by mid-April.
According to FAO statistics, since the 1990s there has been a seven per cent decrease in malnutrition cases in the Caribbean. However, records indicate that there are still 7.5 million people suffering from hunger in CARICOM states.
Farm manager Everton Parks added that presently the site employs 50 labourers with the aim of doubling that in the coming months. He said that staffing increases will reflect input and output numbers.
“We are working to double our livestock count. When we increase those numbers we will add more workers. Two times the livestock, two times the vegetation, two times the workers; that is what we are working towards,” said Mr Parks.
Speaking in reference to a livestock housing unit currently under construction, he explained that the institution will build four units in the coming months. Each unit will house 200 to 250 sheep or goats at a time. Ministry of Agriculture officials valued each unit at $40,000.
The Jamaican agriculture minister, Luther Buchanan, offered many suggestions to improve the “already state-of-the-art” complex. His recommendation to Mr Gray was to incorporate a waste saving mechanism to procure the waste of livestock on the site that could be used as fertiliser at the site.
Mr Gray, the MICAL member of parliament, said: “Today is a wonderful day for BAMSI, for Andros, for The Bahamas and certainly the region. It is wonderful to see the thoughts of our Prime Minister come to life. As you can attest, BAMSI is well on its way to enhancing agriculture in The Bahamas.”
On Tuesday, during a one-day agriculture summit, Mr Gray called on his fellow ministers to consider a common fund within the Caribbean to help CARICOM nations become more self reliant. He indicated that strengthened partnership can fast track the region, enabling the production of sufficient food for all nations in the Caribbean to feed not only their people, but their visitors.