KINGSTON — Householders in six parishes are slated to benefit from the Backyard Garden and Master Gardener Training Programme, aimed at enhancing household food security, while promoting the consumption of locally produced foods.
The programme, which was launched yesterday by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Old Hope Road offices in Kingston, is a sub-project of the European Union (EU) Food Facility Programme.
Under the initiative, which is being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), Jamaica will benefit from financial support of some $15.9 million (Euro140,000) to implement project activities over a two-year period.
These include the establishment of 18 demonstration sites in the peri-urban areas of St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Ann, Manchester, Westmoreland and St. James. It will also include the execution of 10 training sessions for 2,300 persons in site selection and seedling preparation; composting; container gardening; installation of irrigation systems; integrated pest management; harvesting and post-harvesting techniques and popular and simplified hydroponics.
Additionally, beneficiaries will receive 2,500 do-it-yourself (DIY) urban backyard gardening kits, which will include planting materials, tools and planting aids. Some 50 backyard gardeners will also receive certification and will, in turn, train other interested householders in the various techniques of backyard gardening.
Minister Tufton said that one of the main objectives is to encourage Jamaicans to take an active part in ensuring the sustainable production of locally grown foods. He argued that one of the chief challenges in attaining food security in Jamaica is the cultural perception that imported food is not only better, but that it will always be available.
He said it is the mission of the Government to change this perception and reduce the level of complacency among portions of the population, by encouraging each household to play an active part in food production, even in a small way, in their backyards.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), RADA, Al Powell said that the project will enhance food nutrition, “since we’re guiding people on what to grow, and it will also supplement family income and certainly provide the vehicle for knowledge transfer for backyard cultivators.”
He said that as part of the initiative, RADA will be publishing a cookbook, which will provide Jamaicans with tasteful and cost effective recipes to make with the food from their gardens. The RADA head thanked the EU and the FAO for their support, noting that “we are and committed to promote, expand and ensure the sustainability of this programme."
RADA is encouraging interested members of the public to call 1-888-ASK-RADA or 1-888-275-7232 for further details.
Some 28 developing countries around the world are benefitting under the Food Facility programme in support of the UN Millennium Development Goal #1 (MDG), which seeks to half, the proportion of persons living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
FAO Representative to Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize, Dr. Jerome Thomas, informed that Jamaica is benefiting from approximately US$8 million under the programme to address the challenges and opportunities for food security, including limited access to technology and its application.
He said the overall objective is to reduce poverty and increase food security for vulnerable groups, to improve the availability of safe, affordable and nutritious food for rural populations and urban poor.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter