Nassau, Bahamas: The delegation of experts from Volcani International Partnerships (VIP) that visited The Bahamas recently says that the country has immense potential to increase food security.
VIP experts from Israel were in The Bahamas from June 11-17 and visited New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Grand Bahama.
“I think we were very encouraged and impressed with the farmers that we met. I think there were two things that really stuck out for us. The first was their desire and eagerness to learn both by self-education and taking advantage of all kinds of online opportunities. And I think the second element is actually the ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and the local capacity for innovation,” said Executive Director of VIP Danielle Abraham.
“I think our experts learned a lot from local knowledge and we were very impressed by how the local farmers faced challenges and because of the lack of resources, they actually created their own innovations. I do believe because of that we were impressed by the farmers and we can match Israeli expertise and I think together we can make some great advances forward for food security.”
Scientific lead Dr. Tomas Zvi Ron said that he admired the fortitude of Bahamian farmers. “It was very inspiring to meet on the ground. Agriculture is certainly not going to replace tourism. But we see great potential for the agriculture sector here. We see opportunities for individual farmers. I think the building of the cultivation center along with a very long extension service can eventually give economic benefits to the sector. It will also provide opportunities to young professionals who would be attracted to Agriculture,” he said.
VIP experts have travelled worldwide to provide advisory services for the enhancement of food security.
The Government of The Bahamas has placed an emphasis on food security with a view to drastically decrease the country’s import bill that hovers around $1 billion.
Some of VIP experts gave suggestions on how to increase crop yield for The Bahamas.
Aquaculture Expert Professor Sheenan Harpaz spoke about the potential for The Bahamas to amplify fish farming.
“I think there is a great advantage in The Bahamas to put together an interactive programme to use the water reservoirs that can be utilized for growing fish. At the same time, those reservoirs will be available for irrigating crops especially during the dry seasons. By doing so, you utilize the waste products of the fish and they are actually fertilizers for the other agricultural crops,” he said.
“Another thing we can do is to make use of natural resources. Instead of importing food for the fish in The Bahamas. What you can do is get the black soldier fly utilizing organic waste matter – that is different organic leftovers from plants, restaurants or even slaughter houses – these flies grow on organic matter and they can then be fed to both fish and poultry so by doing so we are actually closing a circularly economy, utilizing waste and making it into marketable products for fish to grow and for people to grow.”
Horticulture expert Uri Adler also suggested that irrigation should be improved in order for farmers to achieve a greater crop yield.
“One of the main aspects is to improve irrigation to be able to supply the crops during dry season especially pineapple because pineapple is a crop that needs a lot of water. If we supply it enough during the dry season, you will get more during the wet season. Fertilizers are expensive but using different waste and American compose can be a good solution – using also poultry manure and there are many other good manures that can help us to get good fertilizers,” he said.
Pest Management Expert Yoram Zvieli said that he is looking forward to continue to work with Bahamian farmers. “We can try to economize our expenses by suggesting that the farmer works to get cheaper fertilizers or compare two kinds of pesticides. We are always looking to do the better way and sometimes it means making a compromise. We are just making a decision on how long something needs to grow. It is the same discussion from The Bahamas to Israel. We have to see what our limiting factors are and what is our relative advantage. If we can produce pineapples and our neighbours cannot, we can look to see how we can improve our marketing to increase our income,” he said.
Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting, said VIP’s expertise will be considered when developing The Cultivation Centres, which will be hubs for Agricultural production.
“As we consider to foster growth in the Agricultural sector and exploring options, there must be a fact driven process that is in line with the goal of the Ministry and to ensure there are deliverables,” he said. “That is why I was excited for Volcani International Partnerships to travel to The Bahamas to assess and provide expertise that assisted Israel in their fight against food insecurity.
“It is important that they analyze and process to form initial ideas and incorporating our vision for The Cultivation Centres. This should have a direct focus on enabling agribusiness into the overall approach of a successful sector.”