JIS News

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has been making significant strides in the agricultural industry, providing more efficient and effective service to farmers.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke has pointed out that despite the reduction in the extension officers in the organization, due to a lack of financial resources, RADA was now a more efficient force. “More innovative methods have been brought to the business of service delivery,” the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke was making his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 7.
The Minister noted that the use of video cameras, VCRs and digital editing machines have replaced the flip charts and oral delivery in the transfer of extension messages, and this has allowed RADA to expand its coverage and visibility as well as improve its effectiveness in transmitting technology packages and other messages to farmer groups and other mass audience.
“Some 22 training videos have been produced on subject areas such as goat housing and selection, apiculture, integrated pest management, ring spot disease, turmeric, banana clean seeding, hot pepper and minisett yam production,” Mr. Clarke pointed out.
He added that the intention was to make sure that the farmer was not left behind in this age of technological advancement.
Commenting on the drought, which affected the industry recently, the Minister said “data coming out of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has shown that the sector declined by 26 per cent in the first quarter of the calendar year 2005 as a direct result of that drought, plus lingering effects of Hurricane Ivan”.
Mr. Clarke said that the effects could have been much worse, had it not been for the mini drip irrigation system that RADA and the wider Ministry used to assist farmers. He said the Ministry intended to expand the scheme throughout the country, so that the dependence of farmers on rain-fed agriculture could be reduced.
The Minister pointed out that the mini drip system was gravity fed, which was ideal for areas with limited water sources, and that it was relatively inexpensive and easy to install and manage.
He added that the system was particularly useful to those farmers who were producing for pre-arranged and assured markets, such as hotels, supermarkets and processors, as it made them better able to mitigate the effects of drought, and to maintain production consistency.
Mr. Clarke informed that some farmers had managed to increase their cropping cycles from one to three crops per year, and had recorded over 30 per cent increase in marketable yield.
He noted that assistance in the installation of the system had so far been extended to farmers in the main vegetable growing areas of St. Thomas, Clarendon, St. James, Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, St. Ann, St. Mary, St. Andrew and Hanover.
“The good thing about this project is the big difference it has made, not only to the consistency of supply of local vegetables but to their improved quality and appearance,” the Minister said. Funding for the initiative has come from the Domestic Food Crop and Marketing project, the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project (EJASP), the Japanese Embassy, the Ridge to Reef Project and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute.
Mr. Clarke informed that hundreds of additional farmers would receive similar assistance during the current financial year, when at least two projects with strong irrigation components would be implemented.
The Minister said that RADA was also engaged in farmer registration across the country, to replace the outdated register currently in use. He emphasised that this was very important, as it was an integral part of the anti-praedial larceny programme being spearheaded by the Ministry and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).
Under the programme, each farmer will be required to issue a receipt when selling agricultural produce. The receipt book to be issued by the JAS will bear a number uniquely identifying each farmer.
Meanwhile, the Minister highlighted the Social Services/Home Economics project of RADA, which is aimed at enhancing the well-being of women in rural Jamaica. “The promotion of micro-enterprises in agro-processing is seen as a means of increased production, employment and income generation for rural women,” Minister Clarke informed. Women of varying ages in rural Jamaica are being exposed to a wide range of food preservation skills, which will enable them to manage food processing activities profitably.
Mr. Clarke said that in recognition of the need to diversify Jamaican crops to prevent fruits and staples from going to waste, RADA had developed and promoted several value added products such as chips, bammies, and fruit syrups. Other products include cassava, pancake mix, pickles, jams and jellies.

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