Stakeholders Work To Enhance Agri-Tourism

Nassau, Bahamas: The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Development and the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) will this week host bilateral talks with the Inter-American for Corporation in Agriculture (IICA) to develop exciting programmes to enhance Agri-tourism in The Bahamas.

The aim of the collaboration is to provide local producers with opportunities to develop a range of agricultural products that will link to tourism.

“One of the challenges is to take the easy road by satisfying the demand for food that tourists have. And the easy road is to simply import from other jurisdictions to supply that demand. The wisest, and the most advisable route, however, is to increase local production of the items demanded by tourists and in that way, you diversify your economy, you increase wealth and generate much needed employment,” said Minister of Agriculture and Marine Development Michael Pintard in a recent television interview on Brazil’s national syndicated TV show, Agro Americá.

This month, the government is expected to break ground on the agro-village, which is loosely modeled on a collaboration at IICA’s headquarters in Costa Rica between the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and Microsoft, to create a smart farm. The village will include a weather station and irrigation system.

Minister Pintard explained the benefits of having the smart farm.

“We expect to see greater inflow to this sector that has been challenged in terms of having data. The agro-village will also enable us to mentor and guide these agribusiness persons to scale up their operations to a global stage and Brazil can play a pivotal role in this regard and so we will have discussions about how we benefit from technical assistance from that powerful institution,” he said.

TDC Executive Director Janet Johnson, who also participated in the interview, said that while the idea of agri-tourism is fairly new, initiatives are already underway to provide linkages between hotels and agricultural producers.

“We are also talking with the chefs and food and beverage directors in the hotels. [We] have challenged them to increase the ratio of purchases from the local farmers and we want to see a lot more of that. This has helped to drive a new level of enthusiasm among the farmers and I think that some of the initiatives that the Ministry of Agriculture is taking are going to be very beneficial for the economy and for the local Bahamian farmer,” she said.

Ms. Johnson added that the TDC is also looking to develop tours to farms to increase agri-tourism such as pineapple farms in Eleuthera, mutton in Long Island, and cascarilla trees in Acklins.

“We want to be able to share that with visitors and locals alike. We want the visitor to ask for some of the native products that are grown and cultivated here in The Bahamas. We want people to come and sample what we have in The Bahamas.

There are lots of opportunities, but we want to see more of the tours develop and we are working very feverishly on that. In the past, we have been known for our sea, sand and sun and now the visitor is wanting us to do more land-based tours and we feel that we have some very exciting offerings in the agri-tourism field,” the TDC Executive Director said.

IICA has also initiated bilateral talks with Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister Pintard and Brazil’s Minister of Tourism Gilson Machado next week.

IICA Representative in The Bahamas Mari Dunleavy said she expects the talks to be productive.

“IICA’s Director General Manuel Otero is keenly aware of the unique and devastating challenges that The Bahamas and her people have recently suffered from the horrors of Hurricane Dorian to the economic destruction due to COVID-19,” she said.

“Whether coordinating high level official dialogue with Brazil - a country that spent over $17 billion in international travel pre-COVID - to helping Bahamian farmers increase their farm production and quality standards, to leveraging IICA to collaborate with TDC to agri-tourism opportunities for The Bahamas and even offering scholarships to Bahamian students, IICA is ready to serve The Bahamas. And we are just getting started.”

Kendea Smith