JIS News

The number of extension officers at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), will be increased by 400 per cent over the next 18 months, with about 150 officers to be added.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, speaking at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, said that the move is in keeping with the Ministry’s restructuring plans. It will also make good on the Government’s promise to provide the necessary technical support for farmers, so as to improve productivity levels.
“Over the next two years, the Government will be restructuring the Ministry and one of the first things that we will improve on is increasing RADA’s extension services. What this means is that the extension capacity will expand over the next one and a half years by 400 per cent,” Dr. Tufton stated.
According to the Agricultural Minister, “the increase in RADA’s extension service means that the ratio of extension officer to farmer would come down significantly. Therefore, this will enhance the chances of farmers having more personal contact with extension officers to provide them with training in best practices in their particular area and this [can] lead to higher productivity.”
He further argued that such is the importance of the extension officer to farmer ratio, that if there is a huge disparity between the two, this could significantly contribute to a decline in the production and productivity levels of farmers.
“The ratio of extension officer to farmers was somewhere in the region of one to about 3,000. This is impractical in terms of farmers getting the technical support that they require based on the profile of the Jamaican farmer. One could attribute to a large extent, the decline of production and productivity levels to the decline in technical support that the farmers have been getting overtime in the field,” Dr. Tufton outlined.
According to Minister Tufton, over the last 18 to 19 years, there has been a decline in the strength and capacity of the main extension services provided by Government.
“Jamaica is a country of small farmers with approximately 200,000 cultivating on five or more acres. Many of these farmers are not formally trained and are in the field by virtue of apprenticeship and thus need technical support. But, over the last 18-19 years, [we have] seen a decline in the strength or capacity of the Government’s extension officers,” Dr. Tufton bemoaned.
Over the past four months, the Government has made good on its promise to rectify this situation, by employing an additional 20 extension officers and is now recruiting 40 more to increase the number to 60 for this year. Over the next year and a half, the Ministry will bring on board another 150 extension officers to make RADA more effective on the ground.
The Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to get registered, as only registered farmers will receive assistance. At present, there are approximately 110,000 registered farmers out of an estimated 200,000 across the country.

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