The Analysis Workshop was facilitated by Manuel Messina and Shacara Lightbourne of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and BAIC officials at Abaco Central High School on July 31. Messina and Lightbourne began with a SWOT Analysis to gain a quick assessment of Abaco’s agricultural sector and then to form a strategic plan for the farmers to work toward.
In November, Messina said that IICA plans to bring in a specialist in organic agriculture in November to create a local certification agency and to provide legal framework for organic agriculture, as well as training. He also addressed the use of the greenhouse technology in The Bahamas and its impact on agricultural development.
Next, a questionnaire was distributed allowing farmers to fill out information on identifying capacity building needs of agribusiness management, information on market knowledge, sales strategy, production and financial management, and agribusiness risk management. At the end, the feedback received from the farmers allowed Messina and Lightbourne to develop a strategic plan for Abaco.
The first portion of the strategic plan was dedicated to institutional strengthening which looked at strengthening public sector capabilities in Agriculture along with cooperatives and associations; the strengthening of educational systems in preparing entrepreneurs and technicians in agriculture, adequate protection to farmers in the government’s negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international agreements along with policies for theft control and good agricultural practices.
The next point was on food security where main products would need to be identified; determining the feasibility of producing locally in sufficient quantities through studies; and the designing of programs and projects to guarantee food security. The remaining sections of the strategic plan focused on competitiveness developing food chains, sustainability and rural development.
Arnold Dorsett of BAIC spoke briefly with farmers regarding their responsibilities. It is important for farmers to become a part of associations or groups, so that the government can assist a greater number of farmers. As the year continues, he also assured farmers that they would soon be receiving the financial assistance promised to them.
Meanwhile, Messina said there will be a final workshop on August 16, and they hope to have representatives from Abaco attend.