Today, June 26, 2017, Senator Ranard Henfield speaks about the concerns and suggestions of 15 Civil Society Organizations in The Bahamas in the House of Assembly. One of those organizations is One Eleuthera Foundation. We are grateful to Senator Henfield for giving us this opportunity. Please see the full script below of our concerns and suggestions as presented by Senator Henfield
Development, for the past 40 plus years in the Bahamas at best has followed a “one size fits all” strategy. At worst, successive governments have held a “hold the centre policy”. Which means let’s take care of New Providence, Grand Bahama and then whatever is left we will distribute throughout the other islands. This is not a bad policy for an archipelagic nation with limited resources. Anyone can understand that it can be challenging to bring adequate infrastructure and services to every island and cay where people inhabit. Despite this fact successive governments have promised that they will be all things to all people no matter which rock and/or cay that you live on.Whether it is the building of a multi-million health facility or an airport, while it sounds good for votes, one has to question how feasible it is for them to build and operate these things. It is however impossible for this to happen, unless the government adapts new innovative ways to partner with residents, be they locals or visitors to develop and sustain the much-needed services for each island.
Eleuthera faces a series of compounding critical issues related to its future socio-economic growth that are arguably shared by many of our neighboring family islands:
· Youth employment is under 30%;
· In 2015, approximately 70% of high school students were not eligible to graduate;
· A lack of tertiary level opportunities; and
· Poverty levels in some parts of Eleuthera are estimated to be as high as 20.3%.
The poverty rate is correspondingly disproportionately high, with poverty on Eleuthera, Abaco and Andros reported in The State of the Nation Report  to be as high as 20.3% against the country’s approximately 13% rate in 2014. These grave disparities can be linked to lack of skills training, lack of an on-island tertiary institution and lack of resources to pursue training elsewhere compounded by lack of job or entrepreneurial opportunities on Eleuthera and the other family islands.
The mission of the One Eleuthera Foundation is to be an effective catalyst that brings together people, resources and technical know-how to find, develop or expand the types of projects and activities that will enable Eleuthera to truly prosper. We see the path to the future as one built on our rich cultural and natural assets, an economy that is organic and built on sustainable principles and that includes a more intentional development of the talents and wellbeing of our citizenry.
We recognize that Eleuthera and many of our Family of Islands have a great opportunity to create an economy based around its unique heritage and sustainable/green practices that protect its cultural and physical environment. However, we also see that realizing this opportunity requires moving beyond a fragmented approach to development, with more linkage among communities and projects, higher-quality planning and much more attention to the many difficult challenges of implementation.
Challenges to Family Island Development
After 18 plus months of community meetings and canvassing the island, A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera was developed and released in May 2010 by a group known as Friends of Lighthouse Beach. This was a response to an oversized resort development planned for the most Southern Tip of Eleuthera.
Local residents outlined three main impediments to their islands growth and it is believed that one or more if not all of these may be attributed to the other family islands:
The Lack of Opportunities for Tertiary Level Education on the island. This led to many residents leaving the island after high school to seek higher learning either Nassau, Freeport or abroad. They will take along with them their parents hard earned moneys and also their youthfulness, which is desperately needed in building an innovative economy.
Another obvious challenge was that there was very little access to capital. Even if one wanted to begin a business there is a limited number of places where one could get the capital that they needed to begin or expand a business.
A third challenge was the fear that the decline in agriculture and the rise in food prices would lead to serious long term problems. This has led to food insecurity and a lack of affordable healthy food. Farmers, demonstrates annually that they can indeed grow crops. The challenge has been there is not outlet for them to take them to as there is a cap at the local packing houses. There is also a lack of resources that would allow them to increase their crop and guarantee more production.
Beyond the Shared Vision it was also identified that access to good health care is also a challenge. Many governments have taken this to mean there is a need for a multi-million dollar facility. This is not necessarily the most urgent need especially if this modern facility cannot be properly staffed, resourced and operated at an adequate level. Basic services such as labs, mammograms, x-rays, tertiary level care, access to emergency services are critical to the success of a health facility on family islands.
In 2012, the One Eleuthera Foundation was launched as a driver of the vision. Todate, five years later we have had many successes that we believe should be further reviewed by the current government as a way forward. It is a model that attempts to put the local people at the centre of development
To date we have addressed all of the above issues in significant ways and would like to expand the model to the rest of the island. We have established Emergency Operation Centres, A Centre For Training and Innovation, the One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union and Our Health and Wellness Educational program which has expanded to Exuma, Cat Island and Long Islands.
Tragically, our plea to successive governments have fallen on deaf ears. With little to no support from Central Government, local residents and visitors alike have desperately tried to manage their own crisis. After five plus years of hard work, we know the model can work. This will require more government buy-in, and implementing the necessary infrastructure for Social Enterprises to survive and succeed. We are ready to have a dialogue and look forward to working together to build a better Bahamas for all Bahamians.
Shaun D. Ingraham
Chief Executive Officer