A team from the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) gave presentations on its progress at the 53rd annual meeting of the Caribbean Food Crops Society (CFCS) earlier this month.
The annual gathering, which brings together scientists, experts and technicians in the field of livestock and crop production, was given an overview of recent developments in Bahamian agriculture. The BAMSI presentations focused on livestock development, the restart of crop production following Hurricane Matthew, and increases in food production through educational and economic strategies.
The conference, which drew 250 participants, was held under the theme The Role of the Caribbean as a Research Hub to Advance Global Agriculture and Food Security.
Agricultural extension officers Ty Sands, Montez Hopkins and Zakita Bethel were representing BAMSI. They were joined by Michele Singh, animal scientist and representative of the Caribbean Agriculture Research & Development Institute (CARDI), who is resident on BAMSI's North Andros campus and offers technical support.
Reporting on 'Neonatal survival in sheep: Challenges in the Bahamas', Mr Sands focused on nutritional deficiency experienced by the herd. "We found that some of the animals were experiencing nutritional deficiencies, so we increased the nutrient base - giving the adult females and pregnant animals a more concentrated feed along with supplemental mineral licks," he said.
Apart from nutritional improvements, Mr Sands said there were management changes being implemented in the livestock unit, which supported the health of the ewes and the entire herd, and increased neonatal survival rates. BAMSI's livestock unit houses more than 500 animals, and serves as the Bahamas' hub for breeding, research and development.
Mr Sands said of his regional counterparts: "I hope they recognised the challenges we face as we work to improve our outcomes, and that our experience will help them as they work to find solutions for their own livestock management issues. I wanted them to take away how best they could alter and improve on our challenges."
Mr Sands and his fellow BAMSI colleagues linked with members of the Caribbean Agriculture Extension Practioners Network (CAEP-Net), which enabled them to exchange ideas as well as develop linkages between agriculture and extension work in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and North America.
"Individuals from across the region had input on how they conduct their livestock operations, so I'm walking away from this experience with a broader view of the industry and how experts from across the Caribbean manage their livestock units under various conditions," Mr Sands said.
"I found it to be a real privilege because many people my age don't have the opportunity. I'm proud to be a male that is seeking higher heights, and I'm glad to be one of the recent graduates from BAMSI."
Mr Hopkins' paper provided an insight into BAMSI's work, particularly the revival of its banana plantation and crop management before and after Hurricane Matthew. It emphasised the role of proper plant care, showing that it was essential for a quick recovery following natural disaster. The findings will inform future strategies for crop production in the Bahamas, given global climate change that threatens food security and nutrition in this nation.
Ms Bethel's poster presentation, on BAMSI's Associated Farmers' Programme (AFP), measured the initiative's impact on food production and the resulting level of food security in the Bahamas.
Launched in 2014, the AFP has increased the amount of produce sold to the Andros and Nassau markets. More than 140,000 pounds (approximately 64,000 kilograms) of produce has been processed through the packing house in Andros, and shipped and sold both in Andros and in Nassau.
Between 2014 to 2016, 25 farmers signed contracts with BAMSI, cultivating 47 acres of watermelons, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and peppers.