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JIS News

About 40 farmers in the Buff Bay Valley area of Portland are to benefit from a $35.6 million agro-tourism project, which is intended to re-energize farming and create sustainable livelihoods for residents of the community and its environs.
Under the project, which is being funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), European Union (EU), and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), farmers will benefit from training, technical assistance, and strengthening of community-based organizations (CBOs), to be able to produce high quality products for the travel trade, and to open their farms for eco-tourism excursions.
“The concept links agriculture with tourism, which is far more sustainable than sole sightseeing or farming” said Project Manager, Robert Kerr.
Groups that fall within the scope of the project include the Charlestown Young Farmers and Bee Farmers Associations, and the Spring Garden Packaging Station, which will bring together some 38 acres of farmlands. The multiplier benefit extends to some 200 persons from the area, Mr. Kerr told JIS News.
He told JIS News that the 15-month project, which is scheduled for completion by year-end, entails organising the farmers into viable associations and strengthening existing CBOs.
Training and technical support will be provided to upgrade bee farming and coffee growing operations, to bring efficiency to the operations, and to make these farms more aesthetically appealing to operate as eco-tour sites and profitable farming ventures, producing top quality products for sale to the travel trade.
“The project is expected to introduce farmers to greenhouse technology and drip irrigation systems and strengthen the farmers in groups to better enable them to organize centralized collection, marketing and distribution systems for their produce. This way, they are able to make business projections and produce project proposals to source further assistance,” Mr. Kerr stated.
He noted that one of the challenges that the project faces, is the fragmented nature of the communities due to the rural terrain. But this will be overcome through a corridor management structure whereby, a central group with leaders from the various areas, will have oversight of the existing CBOs and the project.
The programme is one of several being undertaken to upgrade the farming sector and the skills of agricultural producers as announced by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, in his 2008/09 budget presentation.
“We are clear that our farmers must be supported with training, technology and market intelligence in order for them to be viable and to ensure the nation’s food security, by expanding greenhouses for production, packaging, and marketing,” the Minister said.
IICA representative in Jamaica, Cynthia Currie, in a report, said that the project is in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding between IICA and the Ministry, for the provision of technical support in priority areas to modernise agriculture, build capacity, and ensure the nation’s food security.
The Buff Bay Valley is located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and has caves, springs, waterfalls, picnic areas, historic buildings, and a strong maroon culture, which makes the region ideal for development as a tourist attraction.
Agriculture is the main means of livelihood for most of the residents. Originally the chief produce was banana, but now residents are involved in coffee farming, livestock production, and beekeeping.

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