BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WARNING that it’s “unsustainable” for the Bahamas to rely on food imports, BAMSI president Godfrey Eneas yesterday pushed for greater measures to restore the country’s “collapsed” agricultural sector.
“We cannot continue to import food, it is unsustainable,” he said, noting that in 2050 there will be nine billion persons on earth.
“You have to do something to enhance food production or we will be in trouble - that’s how acute the situation is about food.”
Mr Eneas, Bahamian Agriculturalist Ambassador, met with school principals in Grand Bahama at the Foster Pestaina Hall on Thursday.
The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) representatives, led by Dr Eneas, travelled to Freeport to speak with school officials with a view to recruiting high school students for the upcoming semester.
Plans were announced for the establishment of a Grand Bahamas based Tutorial Farm by BAMSI to encourage a greater level of farming in Grand Bahama.
Dr Eneas indicated that commercial farming/agriculture is an important aspect of any country, and noted the commercial farming has declined drastically in The Bahamas over the past three decades.
He recalled that in 1978 there were 89,000 acres of land in production and there were 10,000 jobs created within the agricultural industry.
Today, there are less than 10,000 acres in production, according to Dr Eneas.
“It has declined by 80,000 acres; that is how the agriculture sector has collapsed in our country,” he said.
Dr Eneas said he had advised the government that there are 10,000 jobs in the agricultural sector - so there is no question about the jobs - it is a 1978 figure.”
He pointed out that food security is a serious issue and also emphasised that Bahamians are consuming too much processed foods, which has resulted in the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.
“We are eating badly, we are eating ourselves sick eating cheap processed foods with high sugar and salt content,” he explained.
He noted that The Bahamas has one of highest health care costs in the region, which has changed significantly compared to the days when The Bahamas was more rural and there was farming in the family islands.
“We are in a situation that is acute,” Dr Eneas said. He encouraged Bahamians to attend the Tutorial Farm and get their certificate and apply for Crown Land in East End where there is fertile land for farming.
“The advantage is that Grand Bahama has a built in market of 75,000 people,” he said.
In her presentation, Dr Raveenia Hanna, executive director, Academic Institute, reported that there are about 70,000 Bahamians on food assistance in The Bahamas.
She also pointed out that the country spends $1 billion in food imports from the United States, and further noted that the average age of farmers in the country is 63 years old.
In an effort to change all that, Dr Hanna emphasised that major objectives of BAMSI were aimed at getting a younger generation involved in agriculture and marine sciences.
“The institute intends to empower persons in fishing, and to encourage a younger generation of agri-preneurs, and provide affordable nutritious and sustainable food supply for our country,” she said.
She told principals that students with five BGCSEs with C and above can attend BAMSI at no cost. She said there are certificate courses and a associate degree in agriculture. Persons completing their Associate degree with BAMSI can also enrol at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad to complete their Bachelor‘s programme.
Dr Hanna said that marine science is also important and noted that in 2030 it is estimated that over 62 per cent of the fish eaten worldwide would be farmed, not fished.
Another BAMSI representative noted that the Bahamas has 3.6 million acres of land and 100,000 square miles of ocean. “That makes us the second largest country in Caricom,” said the representative.
Jack Hayward High School Principal Mr Herbert Marshall commended the government on BAMSI. “It is long overdue and we needed to have something like this a long time ago in the Bahamas.” he said.
Mr Marshall also expressed concerned over the issuance of Crown Land to persons who have no experience in farming and are doing nothing worthwhile with the land. He questioned whether preferential treatment will be given persons who graduate from BAMSI for Crown land for farming. Dr Eneas said it was a good point.