Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has revealed that the $6 million tourism linkages backyard gardening project, which has been implemented by the Tourism Enhancement Fund, will be expanded across the island to enable even more Jamaicans to benefit from the tourism sector.
The project has already paved the way for ten young men and women to receive certification from the HEART/NSTA, as Certified Vegetable Farmers. They were presented with their certificates virtually in a graduation ceremony streamed live from the Montego Bay Convention Centre recently. The project has also opened up opportunities for them to earn an income by selling fresh vegetables to entities in the tourism industry.
Minister Bartlett and Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, Hon Floyd Green lauded the initiative and the graduates for illustrating that backyard gardening in communities around hotels, has the potential to be a very successful venture, reaping financial gains from the tourism sector.
Mr. Bartlett highlighted that thousands of people at hotels eat millions of dollars worth of food, and the project was conceptualized to bring idle lands and idle hands in communities around hotels together, to generate economic gains. The idle hands would therefore be trained to grow and sell fresh vegetables to the hotels, allowing for the communities to benefit directly from tourism.
Minister Bartlett said this was in keeping with one of the roles of the Tourism Linkages Network “to connect those important moving parts of the tourism industry to then fit into a production function that enables a consumption pattern that will bring economic benefit to us as a people.”
He noted that Rose Hall, St James was chosen for the pilot project because of its capacity for the growing of winter vegetables and its proximity to the Iberostar Hotel, which was able to purchase a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables grown by young farmers in their backyards, and delivered on demand, thereby allowing them to go from farm to table in real time.
Mr. Bartlett said there was a niche market in tourism, of persons who want organic food. He added that, with the farm to table experience presenting a viable opportunity, the backyard gardening initiative will be expanded to other areas. He added that Sheffield in Westmoreland and areas in St Elizabeth have already been identified for participation in the project. “I want to use this graduation to spread the message across Jamaica, particularly around the tourism areas. I want to see these agricultural farms spring up in Negril, in Ocho Rios, in Port Antonio and on the South Coast,” he said, adding, “I want to bring more ordinary Jamaicans into the mainstream of providing on the supply side of tourism.”
He expressed government’s confidence “in the capacity of our people to supply on the demand that tourism brings.”
Minister Green welcomed the backyard gardening project as a meaningful addition to the drive for increased agricultural production and offered each graduate a contribution of $10,000 worth of inputs, such as planting materials and other items, to aid in building their capacity to produce.
The Lilliput backyard garden graduates have organized themselves into the Rosehall Agri-Ventures group. They have already earned from the production of crops such as sweet pepper, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet basil and black mint, which they have sold to hotels.
The training components of the project were provided by: the College of Agriculture, Science & Education (CASE), which developed and delivered the home gardening training programme; Synergy Business Solutions, which looked at the business aspect in addition to planting for the farmers; and HEART/NSTA, which is responsible for Level 2 certification of the farmers as Certified Vegetable Producers.