|School programs teach value of farming|
Guardian Business Editor
Published: Aug 22, 2012
Executives at the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) are looking to make The Bahamas more competitive in food production, beginning with the student population.
Arnold Dorsett, BAIC’s assistant general manager with responsibility for agriculture, believes that the potential The Bahamas has is great, as most of the items that are imported into the country can be grown locally.
“I think the potential is great. We are importing close to $600 million worth of food into the country, so much of that is tomatoes, sweet peppers, mutton, sheep, and goat. These are all things that we can grow in The Bahamas. In Long Island, sheep is a common thing. Bahamians need to see that when they produce good quality, at a good price, the hotels are interested in purchasing all that they can produce,” according to Dorsett.
“We are looking forward to working to show the business model, not just farming as a hobby but that farming can make money. When you look at a pound of tomatoes priced at close to 40 cents a pound, if you can do 100 pounds, you make money and you just have to keep your costs down.”
Dorsett shared with Guardian Business that BAIC has implemented high school-based programs in places like North Andros and Nassau in an effort to foster the development of a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs.
“The program in North Andros is a very special one. There are several projects going on in North Andros, in particular the one with the high school. We are working with several partners: the Ministry of Tourism, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, BAIC and others are working with North Andros High School. This is a very exciting time,” he explained.
“Last year, the student sold significant numbers of bags of onions to the Sheraton. This year, they expect to expand production to more acres and also diversifying their crops so that they will be producing some sweet peppers, tomatoes, parsleys, thyme and these will all be sold to the Sheraton.”
According to Dorsett, North Andros High School and the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) where both parties will have binding obligations. He pointed out that it is BAIC’s role to provide grant funding for this initiative.
He pointed out how Andros is a leading island in crop production, producing onions, cabbages, sweet peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers and BAIC has successfully introduced modern technologies such as drip irrigation and greenhouse farming, which has enable larger scales of production, making agriculture a more viable options for generations ahead.
“The young people in high school, in particular are our future with regards to sustainable agriculture. As it stands, there are no replacements for the farmers. We are working diligently with the high schools, not only in North Andros, but even here in Nassau at the Government High School (GHS) has been targeted as a magnet school for agriculture, so we will be assisting them as well. In that curriculum, they use agriculture as a core subject. All of the students rotate through the agriculture program. The idea is to give them a good orientation in agribusiness so that those students are able to go and work on the farm or begin their own farms,” Dorsett shared.
At the end of the day, Dorsett said that the objective of the agriculture division is to assist in stimulating, facilitating and encouraging agriculture not only in Nassau, but throughout The Bahamas.