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Helping sponge producers move up in the value chain in the Bahamas

Apr 7, 2016

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, approved a technical cooperation grant of US$535,450 for the project “Revitalization of the Sponging Industry,” in order to foster sustainability of the sponge population, and ensure that this key source of income for Bahamians is maintained and leveraged for sustainable development.

Sponges are an important resource in the Bahamas, and play a key role in coastal ecosystems, especially in a time of climate change and ocean acidification.  They also serve as an important source of income for low-income populations who harvest and sell them.  The sustainability of the sponge population in the Bahamas is currently threatened as many low-income sponge harvesters (spongers) frequently do not follow good practices and a sponge population collapse would negatively impact the incomes of spongers.

In addition, spongers are not capturing the full value of their product.  The majority of local sponge harvesters do not have access to higher-value markets because they are not sufficiently organized and do not have the skills to properly process and market the sponges. They harvest sponges and sell them at a low price to a consolidator or export business that processes them and sells them at a much higher price. Since the spongers are neither involved in processing nor are linked to a final customer buyer, they do not benefit from the higher end-price of the sponges.  

This project provides local spongers the training and organization to move up the value chain and capture a larger share of the income from sponging. The project will also work to consolidate the industry within an association that represents the spongers, providing access to mechanized processing equipment, training, branding, marketing, and direct sales to domestic and international customers–cutting out the middlemen.  The project expects to have 200 direct beneficiaries who are spongers in Andros and 440 indirect beneficiaries, who are the spongers’ families.  If successful the government is interested in expanding the project to other islands in the Bahamas.

About the Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation

The Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC) is a government agency, established in 1981. In 1997, BAIC was placed under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Training and was given the mandate of facilitating the diversification of the Bahamian economy through the creation and expansion of small and medium size enterprises by promoting, encouraging and stimulating business development in The Bahamas. BAIC works to assist small and micro businesses in developing and enhancing profitable opportunities for domestic and international trade. Learn more at www.bahamas.gov.bs/baic

About the Multilateral Investment Fund

The Multilateral Investment Fund is the innovation lab for the Inter-American Development Bank Group. It conducts high-risk experiments to test new models for engaging and inspiring the private sector to solve economic development problems in Latin America and the Caribbean. The MIF addresses poverty and vulnerability by focusing on emerging businesses and smallholder farmers with the capacity to grow and create economic opportunities. Learn more at www.fomin.org
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