Agricultural Sector Owes much to Jamaica Business Recovery Programme


When Hurricane Ivan lashed the island in September 2004, the category four storm wreaked havoc on a number of sectors, particularly agriculture, one of the mainstays of the Jamaican economy.
But this sector, along with the fisheries and craft industries, were quickly revived, with invaluable assistance provided under the Jamaica Business Recovery Programme (JBRP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by Development Alternatives Incorporated, Fintrac, and the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA).
Mission Director of the USAID, Karen Turner explains that the $5.8 million programme was one element of a wider $18 million hurricane recovery project. “The purpose of that project was really to help persons whose production was affected to get back up on their feet as quickly as possible, because it was felt that the faster persons could get back on their feet, the faster they could help with their own recovery and the economy could get going,” Miss Turner tells JIS News. The Programme provided technical assistance, training, grants, new technology introduction, and support for market linkages to producers in the horticulture, poultry/livestock, fisheries, and craft sectors.
“We felt that if we could get those (sectors) back up and running, this would get income back into their (producers) hands. We tried to do it not just with the short perspective of the hurricane, but also to look toward the longer term, so there would be inputs and things that persons would learn, that would continue well after our assistance ended. What we also tried to do was use a lot of local entities – a core concept behind sustainability,” the Mission Director continues. For example, she says, on the agriculture side, a number of farmers agreed to act as demonstrators. “The deal was that we would assist them with a whole range of inputs, but they would agree that other farmers could come and see how they were utilizing the technology, and they would provide advice on what they had learnt, so that the ripple effect of our inputs would be far greater than it otherwise would be,” she says, adding that there were some 176 demonstration farms. “What was interesting is that through the project, we arranged for persons to visit some of these farms, but there were also farmers who heard about these demonstration farms and on their own, came and visited,” she notes. The programme worked closely with local suppliers, so that these suppliers could visit the farms and get an idea of the type of assistance that was being provided and thereby determine how to integrate this into their business activities.
The drip irrigation technology was of particular interest to the farmers, with Jamaica Drip, a local company, actively participating in the programme and providing a number of the demonstration farmers with drip irrigation at a discounted cost, “so that persons could get an idea of how this could work as a technology, so they could continue as a business activity afterwards,” Miss Turner says. The JBRP also collaborated with a number of Government agencies, including the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). “Their advisers who normally provide extension services to farmers, came along and benefited from some of the activities. We also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and a variety of non-governmental organisations in some of the work that we did,” she informs.
The Director says that one of the important elements was not only looking at the short term, which was very important, but also looking at the longer term, “which is how what we were doing would be sustained and fed into some of the on-going needs that Jamaica might have in the agricultural and small business sector.”
In March of 2005, special focus was placed on the introduction of Integrated Pest Management (IMP) techniques to farmers, with knowledge imparted by a Pest and Disease Management Specialist from Honduras. Over a period of two weeks, JBRP field advisers, farmers, and representatives from RADA, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and AgroGrace Limited received training in pest and disease scouting and identification techniques. A series of related field days were held at RADA facilities in St. Elizabeth, Manchester, and St. Catherine.
Field advisers from JBRP and RADA personnel had visited Honduras for field training in the area of horticulture. This was conducted in areas of that country that were devastated by Hurricane Mitch, and successfully rehabilitated under the USAID-funded Centre for the Development of Agribusiness, Miss Turner outlines. Following this training, field advisers returned to Jamaica and began technical programme activities, applying some of the technologies seen in Honduras. These included the raised bed system, site selection and management, and seedling nurseries. Some 3,000 produce farmers were directly assisted under the JBRP.Meanwhile, JBRP poultry advisers visited more than 200 poultry farmers in six parishes to identify clients for project assistance and evaluation of micro-and small-scale poultry practices, to develop technical assistance.
The major assistance to poultry farmers was in the area of sanitation, which was identified as having a significant impact on production, due to the critical link between proper sanitation practices and bird mortality.
Turning to the craft industry, she describes the work that was done as, “a very interesting activity”. Of the industry, which principally involves women, she says that several of them lost their equipment, “so in some cases we replaced the material that they needed for their production. For some of those who were making pottery, it meant purchasing kilns for them, and in other cases, some of the other tools that they worked with.”
The aim was to improve the quality of the products and help persons to understand the market, so that they had a better idea of what they should produce, what would sell best, and how to successfully continue that line of business. “Before, they were just making (products), and some of them were good quality products, but the production wasn’t necessarily geared toward what people might actually want to buy. What we tried to do was to make that connection a little bit better, so that there was a demand being created for their products as well,” the Mission Director adds.
Meanwhile, a myriad of assistance was provided for fisherfolk. In some instances, nets and boats were either repaired or replaced, while provisions were made for radios and training in emergency handling.
Specifically, the JEA collaborated with the Caribbean Maritime Institute to develop a training programme for fisherfolk under the JBRP, in the areas of safety and survival at sea, small craft operations, basic hygiene and care of catch.
The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture harvested 40,000 fingerlings from the first 10 aquaculture ponds that were renovated with JBRP assistance. More than 3,000 grants were provided to fisherfolk.
The Mission Director says that in the short term, persons were able to recover and produce, which was very important for them and for Jamaica. “We had farmers who saw 200 to 400 per cent increase in their production, using the raised bed technology for example. When others saw the impact and the results, more people were persuaded to adopt the technology,” she says.
She notes that technologies that had not been previously used in Jamaica are still being used as a result of the recovery programme. One example of this is the use of some relatively low-cost green houses, which allow farmers to gain maximum profits from their crops because of the superior quality and increased quantity of their produce. “We have seen a tremendous interest in the replication of the green house technology particularly throughout the St. Elizabeth area. We have also seen better connections drawn between Jamaica’s agricultural sector and the hotel sector and it’s something that we are continuing under our long-term programme,” Miss Turner says.
She also highlights the relationships that have been built between businesses that provide services to the various sectors. “Businesses like AgroGrace and Jamaica Drip were able to understand some of the needs of the farmers, demonstrate their technology and explain the benefits, and that is continuing,” she adds.
Miss Turner cites sustainability as the most important aspect of the JBRP, because of the importance of agriculture to the economy.
Former President of the JEA, Dr. Andre Gordon also lauds the one-year programme as having been very beneficial to the focus sectors, and the economy as a whole.
“The programme was one of the major contributors to the very quick recovery of the agricultural sector, post Hurricane Ivan, particularly in the area of fruits and vegetables, and it also helped those sectors recover very quickly and put them in a position to be more competitive than they were before,” he tells JIS News.

JIS Social