FAO in Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize

The Bahamas at a glance

The Bahamas is an archipelagic state that extends 760 miles from the coast of Florida on the north-west almost to Haiti on the south-east. The group consists of 700 islands and 2,400 cays with a total area of 5,358 sq. miles (13,878 sq. km.). Thirty of the islands are inhabited.

The principal islands include Abaco, Acklins, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Harbour Island, Inagua, Long Island, Mayaguana, New Providence (where the capital, Nassau, is located), Ragged Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Spanish Wells.

The highest point in the Bahamas is 206-feet. Mount Alvernia on Cat Island. Once known as Como Hill, Mount Alvernia overlooks The Bight coastal area.

Currently, the population of the Bahamas is in excess of 390 000. Ninety percent of the total population lives on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco. New Providence has 69.9 percent of the population, Grand Bahama and Abaco with 15.5 percent, and 10.3 percent are scattered on the remaining islands and cays.

The original inhabitants of the Bahamas were Arawak Indians, who had migrated through the Antilles from South America. Within a few decades after Columbus landed on San Salvador in 1492, the Spanish had depopulated the islands by shipping the Arawaks to slavery in the mines of Hispaniola and Cuba, where they died by the thousands.

In the post-war years, the Bahamas has become one of the world's foremost vacation resorts. Tourism now accounts for just over 40 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Several parts of the islands of the Bahamas are arid with little potential for agriculture.  However, Andros, Abaco and Grand Bahama, which are also known as, pine islands, have fertile land and adequate fresh water supply. Other islands, referred to locally as Family Islands, such as Eleuthera, Long Island, Cat Island and an additional four islands - Acklins, Mayaguana, Inagua and San Salvador (coppice islands) are smaller contributors to the sector.

Almost all of the major agricultural production takes place on the Family Islands. The major producer of greenhouse tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce as well as initiating plant tissue culture propagation operates on New Providence. The government’s efforts to revitalize the sector have resulted in increasing interest among new farmers. Land allocation to interested individuals in Andros and Abaco has increased and formation of farmers associations on the different Family Islands has also increased. FAO has also worked with the country to develop its fisheries and forestry sectors as meaningful contributors to the country’s GDP.

The Bahamas achieved independence from Britain July 10, 1973, and is now a fully self-governing member of the Commonwealth and a member of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of American States.