CARDI, Dept. of Agriculture collaborate on research, outreach initiatives
Over eighty percent of all farm holdings in developing countries, including the Caribbean, are small scale, family owned and operated enterprises. In The Bahamas, more than 300 registered farmers are spread across New Providence and the Family Islands, contributing significantly to local food production. Small producers and family farms persist throughout the archipelagic chain of The Bahamas, often with limited access to resources, extension services and technical support. Most farmers continue to access their information from informal sources, family members, other farmers and based on their own experiences.
In an attempt to support these small farmers, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has collaborated with the Department of Agriculture in a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening the research and outreach services for the benefit of the agricultural community in The Bahamas. Acting Director of Agriculture Gregory Rahming was very happy with the collaboration, and emphasized the importance of regional collaborative efforts to strengthen local capacity building within the ministry. He said that his staff was excited to begin the research, which includes a project on the establishment of a coconut nursery at the Gladstone Road Agriculture Center (GRAC), aimed at training farmers on coconut seed selection, nursery establishment and seedling production. This initiative will seek to boost local coconut water production, primarily for the fresh market.
Michele Singh, CARDI country representative, who is also an animal scientist, detailed the interventions in livestock. She described a series of initiatives for improving the feeding and nutrition of pigs, sheep and goats through supplemental feeding trials. A forage bank will be established at GRAC, to demonstrate agronomic practices to farmers for producing their own animal feed throughout the year, reducing the dependence on commercial rations. Under the Commodity Improvement thematic axis, new cultivars of sweet potatoes will be evaluated through two methods of production (open field and grow boxes) and this material and information will be made available to farmers throughout The Bahamas to boost local production of this climate-resilient food.
The extension service of the Department of Agriculture will also benefit from this strategic collaboration. Under the CARDI work program for knowledge management, extension services will be strengthened to better service farmers through a series of seminars and the development of “agritech paks”. These will provide farmers with information on key commodities including veterinary support for livestock production.
Agriculture development has been recognized as a vehicle for stimulating growth, trade and a contributor to food and nutrition security in the Caribbean. Since opening its office in The Bahamas, CARDI has embarked on a deliberate strategy for engaging with the private sector, tertiary level institutions, universities and farmers to foster a diverse range of partnerships.
Under the new Strategic Plan 2018-2022, the institute will focus on value chain services; institutional strengthening; policy and advocacy; and partnerships and strategic alliances. A differentiated strategy will guide the implementation of activities across the CARDI member states. This will enable the institute to implement activities that better meet the needs of stakeholders in the country through the adoption of an agricultural innovation systems approach. The improved linkages with stakeholders will promote co-learning and financing, capacity building and investments in youth ultimately resulting in the strengthening of the national innovation system.