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Some 2,000 farmers in four of the parishes hardest hit during the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav last year, are to benefit from the Ministry of Agriculture’s US$3.2 million ($278.4 million) agricultural rehabilitation assistance programme, which is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, and Director of the USAID Mission in Jamaica, Dr. Karen Hilliard, yesterday (Feb.10), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), during a brief ceremony at the Ministry, formalising the handover of the funds, which will go towards crop replanting and farm road repairs in St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, and St. Andrew.
The allocation is the second such provision from the United States Government to assist Jamaica’s rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Gustav’s passage on August 28, 2008. One day after the storm, the US Government provided some US$300,000 in relief commodities to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
The storm caused some $1.6 billion in damage to the local agricultural sector. Losses were sustained to livestock and crops, while there was significant damage to farm roads, particularly in the four parishes targeted under the project.
Speaking at the signing, Dr. Tufton pointed out that at the time of Gustav’s passage, the Ministry was well advanced in developing a productivity programme and study, which had targeted certain crops, and was aimed at promoting best practices among farmers, in order to boost agricultural output locally.
Providing details of the targeted crops, which he said the Ministry has already engaged affected farmers in planting, Dr. Tufton said these include:18 acres of onions; 25 acres of carrots; 15 acres of red peas; 90 acres of sweet potatoes; 10 acres of dasheen; 24 acres of hot peppers; and 19 acres of Irish potatoes.
“Total yield from the crops that have so far been planted is estimated at some 2,500 tonnes. We are expecting that the reaping of these crops will take place anywhere between April and August of this year, based on the crop cycle of the respective crops. That is a start (and) there is a lot more to be done,” he said, noting that the funds provided “will play an important role in advancing that programme.”
Turning to the road repair aspect of the project, Dr. Tufton said that US$1.9 million of the sum would go towards the rehabilitation of some 99 kilometres of farm roads in St. Tomas, Portland, St. Mary, and St. Andrew.
The Ministry, he indicated, would be providing some US$185,000 “in order to boost the effectiveness of the repairs that have to take place on the ground.”
In her comments, Dr. Hilliard pledged the USAID’s continued support in helping the Ministry of Agriculture achieve its goal of revitalising the agricultural sector, and enhancing the nation’s food security.