Licensed farmer and owner of Premium Farm Bahamas Dave Munroe is the first successful applicant of a micro-loan facility offered by the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB). The fund, operated in conjunction with the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), allows Bahamian farmers access to $10,000 for farm upgrades and agricultural improvements. Launched in 2016 in an effort to bolster the country’s agriculture industry, the facility supports smaller farmers who may require an injection of capital to expand and upgrade their farm holdings.
BAMSI’s involvement in the finance project was introduced to help farmers access capital. The Institute currently has in place its Associated Farmers’ Programme (AFP) and membership is required for BDB micro loan applicants. The programme provides members with technical support, advice and training – bringing in agricultural experts from across the region for short courses and tutorials. Through the AFP, farmers receive a wealth of information on cutting edge technologies and best practices. They also get assistance as they move through the loan application process.
A banker by profession, he holds a master’s degree in business, Mr Munroe sees his experience in the business field as a bonus for his farming venture. “My aim is to bring a business mind set and management skills to the forefront to develop a number one farm where I will be able to supply produce to the various grocery chains throughout the Bahamas, and futuristically I’d like to supply outside the country.”
Located in the BARC community of North Andros, Premium Farm Bahamas has successfully produced an array of crops such as cucumbers, red bell peppers, squash and zucchini over the years – but recently required a number of upgrades to maximize its potential. While Mr Munroe would like to see the construction of a structure to assist with housing staff, the loan funds will be used to bring electricity to the property and also to purchase equipment and supplies in connection with preparing the fields for planting. “My philosophy in regards to this farm reflects that of BAMSI’s – reducing food dependency and enhancing agricultural capacity throughout the country,” he said.
Mr Munroe credits BAMSI’s Agricultural Officer Ms. Zakita Bethel, who has oversite of the AFP in Andros, with making the process – both in becoming a member of the AFP and also completing the loan application – a smooth one. As a member, BAMSI assists with giving various seedlings and technical assistance, they also assist with marketing and selling of the items,” Mr. Munroe said. “This [loan] process will add value to the whole system. If [BAMSI] is able to market, sell and provide technical assistance, it will give me time to focus specifically on the farm itself from the production side.”
Describing the micro-loan facility as an excellent opportunity for persons who need startup capital, Mr Munroe said based on the strength of BAMSI’s AFP, farmers are likely to be met with great success over the long term. “With BAMSI bringing on technical assistance, marketing and selling the produce and providing the farmer with guidance – all of this is a great help to persons who don’t have the finances to move their farm forward.”
For persons considering applying for the loan, Mr Munroe described the application process as a transparent one. In addition to a business plan, three basic requirements are needed for consideration: be a licenced farmer, with a VAT registration number, and a member of the AFP.
BAMSI’s Associated Farmers’ Programme is the centerpiece of the Institute’s outreach component and the catalyst for the nation’s food and nutrition security plan. The AFP is comprised of a national network of stakeholders who are engaged in farming, food processing and agro-industrial enterprises to enhance and expand the agricultural sector in the drive to self-sufficiency.
The AFP is the entity that will feed the Bahamas, in conjunction with the research and demonstration farm and the BAMSI College. Persons interested in joining the AFP should meet the following criteria: hold a current farmer’s licence, have farming experience as evidenced by a farming operation, and be able to show ownership, lease or permission to use the land specified for farming operation.
* For more information on the BAMSI’s AFP or the Bahamas Development Bank’s micro loan programme, email email@example.com or call 397.6580.