NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Agricultural Development Organization (ADO), a non-profit organization founded only eight months ago, in partnership with The Church Commercial Farming Group (TCCFG) made up of more than 300 churches, launched the largest program in the history of The Bahamas to support community, backyard and church farming.
The initial effort will provide the necessary supplies and oversight to start up to 500 backyard farms with as many as another 4,500 to follow within a year.
The announcement of the launch came at a press conference attended by Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Clay Sweeting who called the initiative “a welcome game-changer that has the potential to restore the culture of farming and make a real difference in our nation’s ability to feed itself.”
The initiative was introduced in principle nearly four months ago when ADO presented a check totaling nearly $197,925 to The Church Commercial Farming Group. Funds have been used to purchase supplies, hire full-time staff and begin preparations.
“This is an exciting day when, for the first time in our history, we in The Bahamas are making it possible for thousands of backyard farms to be started without any cost to those who want to farm,” said ADO Executive Chairman Philip Smith.
“We look forward to seeing, in the not-too-distant future, thousands and thousands of backyard farmers as well as many community farms and church farms throughout the Bahamas as we plant the seed for greater food security.
“This is the dawning of a new day when we make it possible for thousands to experience the joy of growing something from the earth, putting healthy food on the table and lessening The Bahamas’ dependence on imported foods.”
The program will be overseen by Rev. Pat Paul and a team that includes four full-time staff who will assist with the preparation of soil, planting, irrigation, fertilizing and monitoring. For each new garden, there will be monthly reports accompanied by photos. Kits include tubing, soil, seed trays, liquid fertilizer and seeds. Seedlings were supplied locally by Sinclair Farms.
“We are here today to plant the seed of an honest way of life, to nurture and to harvest that which God has allowed us to grow in this beautiful Bahamaland,” said Paul.
“We are thrilled to be part of this historic movement restoring a love of agriculture and we are extremely grateful to ADO Bahamas for making this long-held dream a reality.”
Smith said he realized how critical the need to “grow our own” was during COVID when as executive director of the Bahamas Feeding Network, he saw desperation and hunger.
“The level of hunger and desperation for food, especially for mothers or fathers trying to feed little ones, was almost too much to bear,” said Smith.
“I vowed then that whatever I could do to restore the culture of farming and make Bahamians proud once again to till the soil, I would dedicate my life to. Today is the first step in that journey we will take together so no matter what happens in the future, our people will never again face what they did during COVID with empty cupboards and empty stomachs.”