A new agricultural transformation project will soon commence in St. Catherine, as the Government aims to create more wealth among local farmers.
“Within a matter of months, this transformation will begin. In fact, in the Bernard Lodge and Innswood areas of St. Catherine, we are going to be seeing, over the next six to 12 months, a transformation starting with 6,000 acres of land in which we have a dynamic partnership of large and small farmers,” Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said.
He was speaking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer to Farmer Conference 2020, held at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston, on Monday (January 6).
“These 6,000 acres that we are starting within that diversification will have a combination of large business people who have the financial capacity and the technological capacity, and we are going to work in a mother farm relationship with small farmers who will get technical support, upfront capital injection, proper fertilisation and guaranteed markets,” the minister said.
Shaw pointed out that one of the plans for the 6,000 acres is a 3,000-acre farm using Israeli technology.
He explained that Israel does not have the volume of water and natural rainfall that Jamaica has, and they extract salt from seawater to irrigate their lands, which Jamaica can emulate.
“When you go there, their level of agriculture is incredible. In the 1960s, we were at the same level of per capita income. They are now at US$40,000, we’re at US$6,000, and we have the potential for agricultural productivity that is far superior to Israel, so we have to inspire ourselves,” Shaw explained.
The minister further noted that Jamaica is at a crossroads and a critical point with regard to agriculture, and the USAID’s Farmer to Farmer programme is helping Jamaica to move forward.
He said that since July 2019, the programme has provided training in Jamaica for almost 500 persons in the areas of mushroom production, cheese-making, goat care, farm mapping, cattle handling and mariculture (the cultivation of fish and other marine life).
This training has been provided for livestock officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), representatives from the Ebony Park HEART Academy and other farmers and producer groups.
Shaw thanked the USAID for their assistance, noting that this level of support “is invaluable to our agricultural sector, our farmers and their families”.
“I’m sure the training provided will result in many economic and social benefits for those who have benefited, not to mention the multiplier effect that will come as a result,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senior Director, Economic Development and Health, Partners of the Americas, USAID, Michael Moscarelli, said the purpose of the conference is to bring together implementers of the USAID-funded programme, Farmer to Farmer, from the various countries where the programme is implemented.
“The reason we brought everyone together here, specifically, is because we want to share best practices. We want to see if what is working in Guyana, if it might work here in Jamaica or if what’s working in Guatemala might work in Jamaica,” he told JIS News.
He said representatives from 13 countries are participating in the seven-day conference.
These countries include Jamaica, Colombia, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Myanmar, Philippines, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, and Peru.
“We brought these people together to share what smallholder farmers are like, what agribusinesses are like, where they are from and what interventions have been successful, and if that’s something we can replicate here [in Jamaica],” he said.