The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) formally entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the One Eleuthera Foundation’s (OEF) Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) yesterday, in a move to improve local knowledge in regards to food production, especially on the island of Eleuthera.
The collaboration is expected to introduce younger Bahamians to the best practices and latest innovations of the agricultural sector and help the country reduce its $1 billion per annum food import bill.
OEF Chairman and CTI Director Mario Smith said during a press conference to formalize the MOU at the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, that the agreement with CARDI will create an ongoing strategic partnership, fostering developments in technology and human capital through internships and other initiatives.
He said given the current problems caused by the pandemic, now is an important time for capacity building in the agricultural sector.
“On a local level, this agreement translates into practical training and grass roots support for the local farmers of Eleuthera, as we help to strengthen the local farming industry through ongoing training, educational workshops, shared resources and access to the research and industry best practices farmers need to be competitive, expand operations and increase their capacity and crop production,” said Smith.
“There has probably never been a time in recent history when local farming and the strengthening of domestic food and agricultural supply chains has been more relevant and important.
“We’ve seen the impact of widespread increases in global and local food insecurity prior to and as a direct result of COVID-19 and the increasing need for community access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food.”
Animal Scientist and Country Representative for CARDI Dr. Michelle Singh said during the press conference that the collaboration in agricultural training will provide education and employment preparedness to Bahamians.
“Over the next five years, both institutions will develop and implement training courses and programs in various disciplines as well as share resources, experiences and knowledge,” said Singh.
“The government of The Bahamas is keen to improve domestic production and reduce the country’s high food import bill. This MOU will directly address the knowledge gap of stakeholders by developing targeted educational programs or scientists, nutritionists, farmers, extension officers, agripreneurs and teachers, among others.”
Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting, who is also the member of Parliament for Central and South Eleuthera, lauded the initiative, explaining that it is very important for himself and the agricultural industry to engage young people interested in farming.
“Additionally, I am sure that given CTI’s track record in education, that the participants in courses will understand the mechanics of farming and the business behind it, to improve capacity in food security locally and globally.”