North Andros to Feed the Nation
By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services
Town, Andros – The North Andros High School came in for commendations from
Agriculture Minister V Alfred
Gray in its quest to feed the nation.
North Andros High is “the model for farming in all the secondary schools in the Bahamas,” added Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Peet, the Member of Parliament for the area.
“I am pushing to get additional scholarships at the College of the Bahamas for those who want to take farming seriously,” Mr Peet told students “Until we can elevate farming to the level of respectability where it belongs, then many of you will still look at farming as a blue-collar work for somebody else to do.”
Mastic Point Primary won the H Newbold floating trophy for excellence in farming, a programme spearheaded by North Andros High last year. Red Bay Primary was second, and Bowen Sound Primary came in third. All primary schools in the district including those in the Berry Islands participated.
Ministers Peet and Gray led a delegation from Nassau to the North Andros High School agriculture rally and exhibition on Thursday staged by the North Andros High 4H Club in collaboration with the agriculture science department.
Also present were Deputy Permanent Secretary/Ministry of Agriculture Ursula Chisholm, Agriculture Extension Officer Stephen Adderley, District Superintendent Harcourt Davis, Administrator Dr Huntly P Christie, and Chief Councillor Alphonso Smith. Joel Lewis is the principal at North Andros High.
“(The agriculture exhibition) comes at a time when we feel that providing food for ourselves is very, very necessary,” said agriculture science teacher and 4H Club co-ordinator Rai Budhu. “We hope to motivate you to strive towards self sufficiency.
“It is important for a nation to be self sufficient in food. A country, which is unable to provide its own food, can be in great problems. You can eat every day the things that are produced right here in North Andros.”
Agriculture exhibits at the school’s sprawling farms, adjacent to its campus, featured a wide variety of edibles – pumpkins, cassavas, yams, potatoes, broccolis, cauliflowers, tomatoes, grapefruits and nonis - the latest cash crop.
Chickens, pigs, goats and ducks are also raised as part of the programme.
Already North Andros High provides a Nassau-based hotel and restaurant with fresh fruit and vegetables.
“I see Andros as the breadbasket of today and tomorrow,” noted Agriculture Extension Officer Mr Adderley. “While there is limited farming going on at present, the potential for Andros is as a breadbasket to feed the whole nation.”
Mr Peet said the government is going to do much more to empower Bahamians, “especially you here in Andros where farming clearly should be and will be the lifeblood of Andros.
“Farming is something to look forward to. It is a profession, which pays, and you would be doing a very valuable service to yourselves, the Bahamas and the world.
“The farmers in Andros have been frustrated for years. We are about to ease that pressure for all farmers because farmers need to be respected and given the tools to earn a decent living.
“This exhibition is a very good example of the importance and the value that North Andros High is putting on farming.”
Agriculture Minister Gray urged Bahamians to consider agriculture as “serious business.”
He pointed out that farming provides an avenue through which the country’s economic base could be broadened while contributing to the country’s food security.
He warned of the “almost total reliance” of the country on a single industry – tourism, “an industry that is very sensitive to and is always driven by external forces over which we in the Bahamas have little or no control.
“It is important therefore for us to expand the pillars of our economy to include the agriculture and fishing industries.”
Another reason for agricultural economic expansion has to do with the Bahamas becoming more self-reliant.
“The fact is that we as a country rely too heavily on imports,” said Minister Gray.
In its effort to motivate farmers, the government has put in place a package of incentives, which include the provision of farmland, assistance in land clearing, duty-free exemption on equipment, and loan guarantees.
Mr Gray said he will be recommending to the government the granting of ‘start-up’ money for persons “who are serious about becoming involved in agriculture and who are willing to farm for produce, which are in high demands.
“I challenge you, therefore, to become partners with the government in making agriculture and fishing strong pillars in our country’s economic life,” said Mr Gray.
“I can assure you that those who are willing to become so involved would find this government’s attitude very embracing and supportive.”