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KINGSTON — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, has called on Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension officers to forge inter-agency relationships in their various parishes, and to take the lead in the development of rural agriculture.

“The RADA van might be in the garage and you may have to borrow the Social Development Commission (SDC) van, but you can’t if you don’t know the SDC parish manager, and you can’t talk to the police unless you know the superintendent of police; so RADA as that critical rural development agency, must now go back to taking the lead in rural development in our parishes,” he emphasised.

Mr. Montague was addressing extension officers at a recertification ceremony, held at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road headquarters, in Kingston, on September 20, where parish managers were presented with certificates on behalf of their extension officers across the 13 parishes, which RADA services.

The Minister further encouraged extension officers to become integrally involved in their communities, to ensure that they maintain a presence, and are known and respected by residents.

“I am urging you to get known in your communities; go to the youth club meetings, the citizen association meetings, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA)  meetings – let the people know you and look up to you. It is not just (about) the salary that you earn, it is the satisfaction you get for a job well done,” he told the gathering of parish managers and extension officers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Montague said the future “looks bright for agriculture,” arguing that the recertifying of extension officers will put them on the cutting edge of agriculture.

In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer of RADA, Al Powell, explained that the recertification programme was similar to the requirements for personnel in the medical field.

Up to March 2011, some of the key achievements of the programme were: the laying of groundwork for a more impact-oriented extension training system; strengthening of technical knowledge and skills in key areas; strengthening of implementation, monitoring and evaluation capacity; reinforcement of modern, standardised training approach; and strengthening of the extension network.

The programme was launched in 2010, and seeks to build and maintain the extension officers’ competence in appropriate agricultural and productivity enhancing technologies. Under the first phase of the programme, all extension personnel were required to complete a minimum of 60 hours exposure to the latest technologies applicable to the sector’s needs.  

Some of the entities with which the Ministry and RADA collaborated on the programme included: the HEART Trust/NTA, the University of the West Indies, the Northern Caribbean University, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, the Vocational Training Development Institute , Agro-Grace, and St. Jago Farm Supplies.

A total of 150 certificates were awarded, inclusive of 98 to extension officers, and the remainder to agricultural assistants.

 

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter