Newly appointed minister visits BAMSI North Andros
Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard while on an official visit to the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute’s (BAMSI) North Andros site recently told some 200 employees of the institute that he holds a different notion of what BAMSI should be than what has historically been shared.
The visit was part of the minister’s mission to understand the role and operations of BAMSI and to familiarize himself with staff members. It included stops at BAMSI’s research and tutorial farm, school campus and other related offices and entities.
Pintard, who also shared part of his vision for food security and import substitution opportunities that exist within the agriculture and marine resources sector, noted that going forward some operations would be fundamentally different. The changes would come, he assured staff members, after research and discussions with strategic players, including former Minister of Agriculture Renward Wells, board members and senior management. He told the team that in short order he would sit with them and share the new strategic way forward. He also challenged the North Andros staff to be excellent in execution of their jobs.
Pintard, who studied agricultural economics at McGill University, said at that stage of his academic development it became clear that a lot of the agricultural concerns that sometimes hindered the development of the sector are political in nature. Policymakers sometimes lacked the will and vision to make the marine resources and agricultural industries work at an optimum level. He also noted that as with the tourism sector, many workers confused service with servitude and that agriculture’s close entanglement with the slave era had cast a deep stain on the sector, causing the younger generation to disengage and turn away from opportunities provided in the industry.
“I keep in mind the reason I was motivated to study agriculture, it was about changing the condition of our people. We are going to increase not just food production, but the production of non-food items as well. And remember, BAIC is an integral part of this ministry also,” he said.
Accompanying the minister was Parliamentary Secretary Carlton Bowleg, who is also the member of Parliament for North Andros and the Berry Islands. Representing BAMSI was CEO and General Manager Alaasis Braynen, and members of the public relations and IT teams.
Highlighting the institute’s mission to formulate a sustainable food security plan and introduce initiatives that will help reduce this nation’s $1 billion food import bill, the group toured the Lan’ Crab Cafeteria, Organic Solar and the research division, including the campus facilities and the BARTAD building, which are headed by Executive Director Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna. While at the latter location, Registrar Deanne Williamson introduced Pintard and the delegation to the support staff and led them on a tour of the classrooms and labs. The group also visited the packing houses where Pintard was able to witness the post-harvest procedures that are implemented to ensure the produce is properly prepared for shipment to New Providence.
The tour also included the research and tutorial farms, with the minister visiting a number of sections including where there were bananas, citrus fruits, papayas, coconuts and pineapples. He also stopped at the Livestock Unit, which currently houses 500 sheep and goats.
This part of the tour highlighted BAMSI’s ability to impact the island’s economy and to support young Bahamian entrepreneurs. As part of the feed protocol, BAMSI’s livestock feed includes grass grown hydroponically by Cerone Dean, proprietor of Organic Solar. This technology is changing the way livestock is fed in the Bahamas by producing organically grown, non-GMO feed.
“Opportunities exist, why are we not taking advantage of it? Government’s role, as should be BAMSI’s role, is to facilitate. Allow those who do it well to do to it, especially within the private sector,” Pintard said.
“The workforce can be an incubator – if you’re getting it right in banana production, help the private sector get it right”.
Pintard also mentioned Cerone Dean’s Organic Solar operation.
“How do we help him duplicate what he is doing multiple times over so that he can grow. That is our role in government,” the minister said.
“For some of you, you only needed a brief stop to catch yourself and then pursue the thing that is your passion. You may be interested in shrimp farming, [BAMSI] is the place to learn about it.”
Bowleg, who had the opportunity to address the delegation and staff, shared his support for BAMSI. He reiterated the government’s position that it is critical the nation arrives at an acceptable level of food security.
“We eat what we grow and grow what we eat,” he said.
The minister also commented on Bowleg’s almost unique relationship with his constituents, saying that he had gone out of his way to create employment opportunities for the people of North Andros.