Female Farmers Helping to Restore Mined out Lands in St. ANN

In keeping with the imperative to fully restore bauxite lands within three years of mining, St Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners (SAJBP) has established a people-centred programme, involving farmers from its operations area, to help with this effort.
Sixty-five year old farmer and resident of Rosetta district, Lillian Williams, says that for her, the activity has proven to be a very viable “economic alternative”.
“In July 2006, I heard about an opportunity to become a part of a special programme aimed at rehabilitating lands previously mined by St Ann Bauxite. I took it with both hands and so far it has been a very worthwhile and rewarding experience as I am paid by the company to plant various crops such as grass, sweet potato as well as other crops which I can reap to sell at the end of the day,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Williams notes that farming has been a tradition in her family. “All my life I have been a farmer as I have followed in the footsteps of my grandmother and step-father. I have eight children all whom are now fully grown, but this is the occupation that had help to support them over the years.in fact today I am here on the bauxite lands planting sweet potato, one of my favorite crops,” she says.
The local faming group to which Mrs. Williams has been assigned includes seven other women.
“At lot of us ladies like to farm. At the start there was about 12 of us in the group.we had four men with us but the men were a bit impatient with the way how things were going so they decided to take a break and we have been carrying on ever since, ” Mrs. Williams says.
She adds that, “We have had no problem as the bauxite company has been so very helpful to us, as through the money I receive I am able to pay my bills and to eat a food and though I am from a poor background there is great dignity in working for your daily bread.”
Mrs. Williams has high praises for SAJBP for the manner in which the reclamation project was been monitored. “I have to say thank you to the company, and I would encourage other persons like myself to come and join with us a do this good work and gain some independence,” she says.
Another member of the group, Yvette Campbell is also upbeat. “Since I have started here I have been really enjoying myself planting grass and other things on the reclaimed lands. One of the joys of this experience is that we have no boss over us, we do what we have to and we can go and come as we like,” she says.
Ms. Campbell says the first crop of sorrel that was planted last year saw excellent returns. “I have to big up Mr. Gooden and Mr. Henry from the company for the good relationship that they have fostered with us,” she remarks.
The farmer notes that although each day it takes at least three hours to travel from Rosetta, the pay-off is enough motivation.
“What we are planting today is grass in this beautiful open country some of the other crops that we have seen grown on these lands include pumpkin, yam, corn, sweet pepper – basically any crop that you would want to plant can grow here. I respect St. Ann Bauxite (Company) a lot for the very good spirit that they have shown and to the very young I say come out and learn to farm as our country cannot do without farmers,” she says.
For his part Land Reclamation Supervisor at SAJBP, Alfred Henry spoke about the important role that the female farmers were playing in the effort to rehabilitate the mined out lands.
“Our programme employs over 800 farmers and it is quite unique that over 80 per cent are women as against what happens elsewhere in the local bauxite industry. It provides tremendous opportunity for them because most might not have a husband and this is the nearest area which can provide employment. Some have a lot of children and this exercise helps to send them to school and to support the homes financially, maybe even to do home improvement,” he explains.
Mr. Henry notes that the company is pleased with the levels of production from the women. “Once they start working they give you good quality and they don’t worry about being paid,” he adds.
He points out that this farming programme should not be confused with the general bauxite tenant farmers programme.
“The difference with our activity is that all our lands are owned by the Government and we use the farmers to help bring the mined out areas up to certification standard in keeping with the time line established by the Mining Act. At the other (bauxite) companies there is a post restoration tenant farmers programme where the rehabilitated lands are in fact leased to applicants at a cost,” he clarifies.
Mr. Henry discloses that having seen the success of the SAJPB scheme, the intention was to continue the initiative.
“As a matter of fact we are now examining an idea that will see us earmarking a few hectares of the restored land to plant many new varieties of non-traditional crops such as peanut, sweet cassava and its byproducts such as cassava chips as well as scotch bonnet pepper. there is an arrangement that we have finalized with Walkerswood Pepper factory, which will guarantee a steady market for our farmers in this regard,” he informs.
Meanwhile, Reclamation Superintendent, Cyril Gooden tells JIS News that in terms of the restoration effort the company has received a favourable report from the Commissioner of Mines on its reclamation exercises for 2006.
“This is the second consecutive year that the company has received the status of industry leader in the reclamation area, having made an industry record in 2005 by reclaiming and certifying 210 hectares,” he notes.
Mr. Gooden explains that the company which is a relative new corporate entity (formerly Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company) had inherited a backlog of pits awaiting certification in 2003.
“At that time lands awaiting certification amounted to 1,258 hectares. This figure has been reduced considerably over the years, and at the end of 2006, the figure stood at 795 hectares,” he says.He further informs that 650 hectares were certified between 2004 and 2006, compared to the 137 hectares for the period 2001 to 2003.
“This represents a five-fold increase in reclamation rates and the annual rates of reclamation for the years 2004 to 2006 are the highest ever done in the bauxite alumina industry, and represents approximately 70 per cent of certified reclamation done by the entire industry for the same period,” he states.
Mr. Gooden observes that for 2006 alone, the company surpassed its target of 250 hectares by 1.1 hectares and in doing so achieved another industry record.”The company’s plans to eliminate the backlog while not allowing current mined out pits to fall into this category are on target for completion by 2011 and the significant increase in reclamation rate was not achieved at the expense of quality as evidenced by the Company’s Rehabilitation Supervisor, Karnel Henton being awarded the coveted Parris Lyew Ayee Environmental Award for outstanding work in reclamation in 2005,” he outlines.
In order to reduce the reclamation backlog, the company has invested heavily in capital. Six Komatsu 375 tractors had been acquired for use in the backfilling operation, along with two caterpillar scrapers for top soiling, and two Massey Ferguson farm tractors for ploughing.
Five of these tractors were replaced in 2006 at a cost of $245 million. One hundred and thirteen million has been budgeted to replace the two caterpillar scrapers this year. In addition to the company’s own equipment, contracted equipment in the form of two tractors and four scrapers are employed as supplements.
To demonstrate that its reclamation practices will enable mined-out lands to continue to be productive, SAJBP employs some 800 residents from the surrounding communities to plant, fence, apply of fertilizer, and generally tend crops. Pits are mainly reclaimed for cash crops, pasture, and resettlement purposes.

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