Agriculture Ministry To Launch Agri-Island Food Link Programme; Seeks Assistance from FAO

Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Hon. Clay Sweeting

Quito, Ecuador| The Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs will launch an Agri-Island Food Link programme geared at boosting Agritourism in The Bahamas.

Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Hon. Clay Sweeting made the announcement during the 37th Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Latin American and Caribbean Regional Conference held in Quito, Ecuador from March 28 – April 1.

During his address, the minister explained that the programme would seek to implement an Agritourism policy to delineate the priorities, regulations and standards of the sector — identifying sustainable agricultural and hospitality practices.

The programme also provides governance for market entry, operations and incentivized development through ministerial support. Additionally, the programme seeks to build capacities of producer groups to enter the agritourism market — provide training on agritourism business management so that farmers will be able to assess their current agribusiness, determine the gaps and develop solutions in accordance with agritourism policy and standards.

“This initiative highlights the special offerings of each island that has not only attracted tourists but fed and provided economic stability to rural communities over the years. For instance, the island of Eleuthera is known for pineapples, where the sugar loaf variety can be branded as a Geographic Indicator (GI). The island of Long Island has a rich history of herding small ruminants; and the island of Acklins is known for its Cascarilla trees. These islands have the potential to also become designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems to boost agritourism,” Minister Sweeting said.

He added that benefits of the programme are training opportunities for small agribusinesses; inclusion of women and youth in new decent rural employment; avenues for global branding of local farming and produce; preservation of community culture through agrifood systems which in turns allows for sustainability; increased incentives for rural development and reduced youth migration to urban areas; strengthening of the linkages between the Family Islands and encouragement of domestic travel.

Minister Sweeting said that there is a grave need for human resources and technical support to scale up the initiative and urged the FAO to assist through technical assistance and financing for resource mobilization, as it has done in previous years.

“The Bahamas calls on an urgent increase of FAO presence in the country and on the ground to experience these various islands, their potential offerings and needs. The Bahamas has been pacified over the years with short missions to the rural islands for assessments and reports but little impact with farmers and fisherfolk, unless it is in response to a disaster. We trust that through the upcoming FAO Work Programme, The Bahamas can benefit from a greater involvement of FAO at the territorial level,” Minister Sweeting said.

“We know that Tourism is the main driver of our economy, but we also understand that Agriculture is pivotal. So, what countries around the world are doing [is] fighting food insecurity. But what’s so great about The Bahamas is that we can do this and also create another part of our sector which is Agritourism. We are so excited to do this. Family Islanders will be involved”: Tourists will be able to visit niche farms in various parts of the country, he said.