JIS News

Hundreds of banana workers, whose jobs at Eastern Banana Estate in St. Thomas were made redundant following the entity’s closure, attended an information fair at the Golden Grove Community Centre in the parish on Thursday (October 30), which was staged to provide them with assistance on alternative employment options, as well as guidance on how best to manage their redundancy payments.
The fair, organised by the Rural Diversification Programme (RDP) of the European Union Banana Support Programme (EUBSP), was the first in a series of initiatives aimed at sharing information with the displaced workers, on how to access funding for income generating projects through the European Union (EU), as well as providing them with information on benefits to be derived through the EUBSP.
Ivan Bennett, a banana worker, who was employed to Eastern Banana Estates for 26 years, said he was able to get “vital” information which will help him to find alternative employment. He intimated that he was happy to learn about the certification programme offered by the HEART Trust /National Training Agency (NTA).
“I worked in the irrigation department (of Eastern Banana) for the last 10 years, and I am not certified. I would like to be certified as a plumber, because I know how to do the plumbing work,” he said.
Mr. Bennett advised that he has plans to use his redundancy funds to start a pig rearing business, and undertake sugar-cane production. He was, however, quick to point out that he will need some 10 acres of land to pursue these undertakings.
“When I look around and see the number of people who are not employed now, I think it is a total disaster. And I say the Government should do something by distributing land,” he suggested.
Rural Development Officer of the RDP, Everton Parkes, told JIS News that one of the aims of the organisation is to provide persons with the necessary tools to empower them to make “a life after banana.”
He disclosed that a number of persons are keen on accessing training courses provided by the HEART Trust/NTA.
“Primarily, they are farmers, but they have a lot of innate skills. And now is the time for them to get certification, so that they can be incorporated in the wider community,” he added.
Mr. Parkes said the EUBSP and other government and private sector agencies will be setting up a data base with information on the workers, so that they can be incorporated into other projects and activities in the parish.
He informed that several RDP grant projects will shortly be implemented in St Thomas. These include: the Banana Sector Retraining Project, to be implemented by HEART Trust/NTA; the Strengthening Capacities for Sustainable Livelihoods Project, to be implemented by Christian Aid, and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre.
Mr. Parkes also advised that, where necessary, the RDP will seek to stage other information fairs.