Some 40 small farmers in St. Thomas and St. Mary, who previously cultivated banana, are to benefit from support under the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes.
The European Union (EU) is providing funding for the programme, through its Banana Support Programme, which seeks to provide alternative income-generating opportunities for banana farmers, who have been displaced due to hurricane or the new European Union (EU) import regime.
Over its 16-month duration, the farmers will be provided with the materials, training and technical support necessary to engage in sustainable production of scotch bonnet peppers, goats and bees/honey. Most of the farmers participating in the project occupy holdings, which are between 0.4 hectares to 2.4 hectares.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, in his remarks at the launch of the programme held yesterday (June 21) in Somerset, St. Thomas, urged the beneficiaries to seize the opportunity provided through the project.
“Those who have suffered, the opportunities don’t exist anymore. The price of banana was cut and competitiveness was the order of the day and of course, you have heard of the many storms and hurricanes that devastated the industry. This is a new situation for you in these parts. It is giving you yet another opportunity, and I want you to grasp that opportunity,” he stated.
Head of Operations, EU Delegation, Jesus Orus Baguena, urged the farmers to see the programme as an ideal way of “engaging in a paradigm shift”, while repositioning the small farming sector.
In his remarks, Chairman for Food for the Poor (FFP), which is the implementing agency for the programme, Andrew Mahfood, noted that the initiative will create a “spring board” for small farmers to benefit from new income generating opportunities and increased profitability.
“The project is also assisting them in the establishment of farmers’ associations registered in target communities. My wish is that our beneficiary farmers will serve as a source of inspiration to your community, parish and nation. Show us that, through hard work and dedication, you can make a big difference,” Mr. Mahfood said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has oversight for the programme, while the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) will assist with the implementation.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter