The Goat Breeders’ Society of Jamaica through the Ministry of Agriculture has hailed the European Union (EU) for its assistance to the small ruminant industry, which led to improved goat meat quality and income earning opportunities in a sector characterized by small farmers.
The EU was recognized for its support on Thursday (Feb. 12) at a ceremony held at the Ministry’s offices at Hope Gardens in Kingston.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, in his address spoke of the variety of initiatives implemented by the EU since 1987. More than J$20 million has been spent to assist the small ruminant industry in particular and the agriculture industry as a whole.
Minister Clarke highlighted the National Sheep and Goat Development Project, which the EU initiated in 1987 with an investment of J$2.4 million to address the endemic problem of high death rates among local goats.
Measures employed to tackle high death rates were artificial insemination and cross breeding leading to a 10 per cent increase in growth rates and significant improvements in the quality of the local goat population, he observed.
Another initiative the Minister mentioned was the Morant Yallahs Project, which ran from 1996 to 2000 and its successor, the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project (EJASP) whose goat development components were supported by more than J$18 million. EJASP operates in St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary.
Minister Clarke, citing figures from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), said that the EU’s contribution had led to the production of 3.3 million kilograms of goat meat between 1997 and 2002.
“The ongoing collaboration between the EU and the goat industry has gone far beyond the creation of increased market opportunities,” said Minister Clarke, adding that it had served to stimulate the growth of rural communities, which had a proliferation of goat farmers, through the sustainable development of this sub-sector.
Dr. Felice Zaccheo, first secretary and head of the rural development section of the EU delegation, who represented Gerd Jarchow, head of delegation, said that the EU’s contribution was geared towards poverty alleviation and rural development.
Central to this was the establishment of a network of 52 local goat breeders’ associations with more than 1,300 members and the establishment of revolving funds for these associations, he said.
These associations have also been provided with improved bucks; grass fodder plots; medication packages and technical assistance to stimulate production, Dr. Zaccheo said.
Minister Clarke presented Dr. Zaccheo with a plaque on behalf of the Goat Breeders’ Society.