KINGSTON — The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), through European Union (EU) funding of US$8 million, has been supporting efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to significantly increase production of local foods.
Speaking with JIS News, FAO representative in Jamaica, Dr. Jerome Thomas, explained that, through a two-year food facility project, the organisation has been assisting the agricultural sector with irrigation, seed production, tissue culture, green houses, data collection, training of farmers and other activities geared at continuous production of local foods.
Dr. Thomas said that a major beneficiary of the project, which will end in July, is the Goat Farmers Association, which has received assistance such as upgrading of their genetic material by importation of semen and goats, upgrading of abattoirs, provision of equipment to prepare and transport meat and improved technology to aid the supply of more local goat sausages and products.
"The project is also giving support to rice production and recently we have been involved in land clearing and preparation…we have imported rice seed and equipment, which will facilitate the production of rice, and also looking at assisting with modern technology such as tissue culture activities, not only in enhancing the lab facilities, but also training so that the persons who work in the labs will be better equipped," the FAO representative outlined.
He added that the project provides assistance for the use of green house production, in areas of water harvesting, and assisting the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) with their data collection, where they are able to get computers and training for these facilities.
He said that the main anticipated outcome from the project, is increased production in a wide range of agricultural crops and livestock products.
Dr. Thomas noted too, that the combined effort is to increase production and encourage persons to eat more local food.
To this end, he said that the FAO is integrally involved in the implementation of the recently launched 'Eat Jamaican' campaign, which is aimed at increasing local production and encouraging consumers to make healthy choices by choosing local produce, fruits and vegetables.
The three-month campaign, which began in March, includes nine islandwide road shows, to get Jamaicans united behind the theme, 'Eat what we grow, grow what we eat', in support of farmers, retailers, agri-processors and distributors.
"Once we are able to produce more local food and people buy more local products, it would mean that farmers would increase their income, their livelihood and households would improve. The country's import bill would be significantly reduced and the entire country would be beneficiary of this intervention," Dr. Thomas pointed out.
By KADIAN BROWN, JIS Writer