Learning to feed ourselves

Dear Editor,

There’s a well-known Chinese proverb attributed to philosopher Confucius that says, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

With The Bahamas having to import the overwhelming majority of its food supplies, mainly from the United States, an apropos proverb would be, “Give a man a vegetable, you feed him for a day; teach a man how to plant a vegetable, and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Long Island MP Adrian Gibson must be applauded for lobbying the Minnis administration to assign the development of various food crops to different Family Islands.

The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute in Andros reminds this writer of the Agro Andros venture under the last Pindling administration in the early 90s.

Failure should’ve never been an option for a country that needs to get to the stage of food self-sufficiency.

Domestic food production would either lessen or outright eliminate the need for food exports, which would also mean that The Bahamas would hold on to most of its foreign reserves.

This would inevitably lead to the growth in the economy that would eliminate our over-reliance on tourism and banking.

COVID-19 frightened many of us Bahamians, because we initially feared that President Donald Trump would’ve completely shut the borders of the United States, to the extent of not allowing cargo ships to traffic to and from his country.

This initial fear led to the issue of panic buying, as thousands of Bahamians flocked to the grocery stores to stock up on food items, vitamins and toiletries.

I have argued incessantly in the past that the political directorate, from Sir Stafford Sands and Sir Lynden Pindling to today’s government leaders, erred by putting all our eggs in just two baskets.

Gibson must also be commended, this time for distributing one million seeds to Long Islanders to encourage farming.

Another Chinese proverb says that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Last year, a Mediterranean Shipping Company expatriate worker from Croatia asked me why was it that Bahamians don’t have gardens. He marveled at our inability to feed ourselves. He argued that that was why the cost of living is so high in The Bahamas, which is a well-known fact among Bahamians.

He told me that the overwhelming majority of Croats have gardens.

Farming in Croatia is a hobby for many.

In The Bahamas, it’s Facebooking, web shop spinning and bar room hopping.

Crops such as wheat, maize, barley, potatoes, soybeans, sunflower, rye, sugar beet and oil seeds are cultivated at commercial levels in Croatia.

Due to the Croats’ independence, the price of food items is extremely low.

For example, the Croat expat told me that a loaf of bread is 25 cents in Croatia, while a gallon of milk is under $1. Bread is a staple dish in Croatia, much like rice is in The Bahamas.

A close family member of mine is currently cultivating her own garden.

She is growing lemons, oranges, garlic, potatoes, onions, parsley, watermelons, lavender, cilantro, ginger, apples, sweet pepper, cabbage, scallions and lettuce.

It’s hard work. But it’s worth it, if we Bahamians want to be self-sufficient, like Americans and Croats.

The Bahamas has thousands of acres of land sitting idle, which could be used for large scale agriculture.

We need to develop the mindset of the Croats by following their example in gardening.

Give a man a vegetable, and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to plant vegetables, and you feed him for a lifetime!

Kevin Evans

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