September 14, 2018
Minister of Agriculture & Marine Resources, Hon. Michael Pintard hosted residents of the North Andros farming community at the Bahamas Agricultural Research Center (BARC) to a special town hall meeting Wednesday, September 5.
The meeting gave residents the opportunity to share their concerns and ask questions on the transfer of ownership of public land that was leased to the original tenants in the early 1970s by the Government of The Bahamas.
Addressing the meeting, Minister Pintard reassured the residents that the Minnis Administration is committed to resolving the ownership issue that may one day see land grants given to residents that want to farm.
The original agreement allowed for acreage to be leased for farming purposes and most of the properties came with a home.
The BARC project was originally known as BARTAD, Bahamas Agricultural Research, Training & Development project and was funded by the United States government.
The question of ownership has been an ongoing concern for second generation residents of the community who feel that having deeds to some portion of the land would allow them the opportunity to obtain loans to further develop their farms.
“Tonight, we came to north Andros to address those residents who live on the land known as BARC with a view of encouraging the utilization of all of the property that was allocated to them and to enter into discussion on the government resuming, if necessary, those portions that have not been under cultivation or will not be under cultivation in the foreseeable future,” the Minister said.
Minister Pintard said the meeting would allow his team to propose a land grant that would outright give a portion of the land to residents that they currently occupy and a portion they can cultivate as well as provide the option for leasing, by them or members of their family, additional land for the purpose of farming.
Minister Pintard urged the residents to be fair and realistic in their expectations. Bernlee Marshall, the son of an original lease holder, the late Enoch Marshall expressed his appreciation for the meeting taking place in the first place.
While the final details of what was agreed upon must be worked out, Marshall said the residents were happy that some progress was being made and he was hopeful that in the near future, a settlement could be made that would satisfy both the residents and the government.
“For the first time, tonight, I believe progress was made because we were told that we would receive documents to the land that we could use as collateral whenever we wanted to use it.
So progress was made. We are all happy here tonight,” he said.
It was agreed that each of the occupants of approximately 16 parcels of land would be evaluated on a case by case basis. Many of the residents shared the number of acres they thought were reasonable as a land grant.
Member of Parliament for North Andros & the Berry Islands, Carlton Bowleg appealed to the residents to work toward a resolution that has eluded them for decades.
The Minister’s delegation included Nicola Oliver, Director of the Ministry’s Land Unit; Aalysis Braynen, General Manager of BAMSI; Gregory Rahming, Acting Director of Agriculture; Under Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources, Alphaeaus Forbes and Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna, Executive Director of BAMSI.
Approximately 2,000 acres of farm land make up the BARC community that borders the BAMSI farming area.