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The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), staged its first annual open day in Jamaica, at the Sam Motta Demonstration and Training Centre (SMDTC) in Knockpatrick, Manchester recently.
The Centre, which was named after the late, renowned agriculturalist and research scientist in agriculture, Sam Motta, began operations in February 2000 on 20 hectares of mostly mined out land at Knockpatrick, made available by ALPART.
Public Relations Manager at ALPART, Lance Neita, in giving an overview of the Centre said, “at this station, we are currently engaged in research and development on goat breeds and strains, the assessment of forages and by-product feeds, the development of appropriate goat housing, as well as the demonstration of productivity of food crops on reclaimed bauxite lands using appropriate technology.”
The Centre also conducts organised training sessions and field days in animal and crop husbandry, for farmers as well as extension officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), on the Manchester plateau and surrounding areas. It also serves as a site where practical experiences can be gained by farmers, students and householders; and mounts displays at major agricultural shows, to showcase goat production and productivity on mined out bauxite lands and the hosting of prominent sheep and goat producers from the United States and Canada.
“Our work at the Centre has focussed to a great extent on the development of improved goat meat of the Nubian and Boer breed types. Lately we have included the Alpine Blood in the herds, either to enhance milking ability of some cross bred does, or to prepare for the introduction of a goat milk project,” he explained.
Mr. Neita said that investigations at the Centre into the sustainable production of cash crops on mined out bauxite lands has contributed significantly to the efforts of the bauxite industry in that regard and said, “Technologies have been actively transferred and used in the communities of the ALPART mining areas and even beyond”.
The Sam Motta Demonstration Training Centre, since its interception in 2000, has achieved the successful distribution of over 100 service bucks and over 200 breeding does, resulting in improved breeding stocks, while the stud buck service offered by the Centre has contributed to the production of over 500 native does graded by the Nubian, Boer and Alpine breeds. Some 200 farmers from the mining districts of Knockpatrick and surrounding areas have benefitted from the Centre, and more than 3,000 farmers, students, and householders, have gained practical experience at the Centre.
In addition, students from secondary and tertiary institutions have benefitted from training in cross fertilisation from visits of faculties and students from the Universities of Florida and Maryland in the United States.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government, established CARDI in 1975, to serve the agricultural and development needs of the 12 member states of CARICOM. It is the only regional agricultural organisation that is mentioned in the Treaty of Chaguramas, which brought CARICOM into being.
The development of the SMDTC came out of a partnership between CARDI and bauxite alumina company ALPART in 1995, to provide training and technical assistance for tenant farmers in ALPART’s Nain mining area, under the Goat Herd Improvement Project. The success of that initial programme was subsequently extended to tenant farmers of Kaiser Bauxite Company in Water Valley, St. Ann, and other locations across Jamaica.
The demand for more small ruminant breeding stock led to a formal agreement being signed in 1999 between ALPART and CARDI, for the establishment of a technology centre for the development of improved small ruminant breeding stock for farmers and the development of other appropriate technologies for agricultural production on mined out bauxite lands.