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Ten farmers from the constituency of Eastern Westmoreland were presented with 20 goats at the launch of the $3.8 million Ashton Goat Improvement Project in the Ashton community last week.
The Ministry of Agriculture spearheaded the project with assistance from its Research and Development Division, with the aim of improving the genetic stock of the local goat breeds in the parish. Expected to assist in the creation of a culture of hope, self-reliance capacity building and community strengthening, the project will benefit farmers from Ashton, Belvedere and New Works. The recipients have already received special training in goat husbandry from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
Making the presentation to selected farmers involved in the project, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who is also Member of Parliament for the constituency, said the project emerged out of a plan developed at his insistence, to allow for economic growth, self employment and the amelioration of the social conditions within the community and the constituency.
He aid that while the Ministry had sought and would continue to diversify the range of economic activities in the constituency and particularly the advent of tourism in the form of a 350 room hotel to be opened in Whitehouse for visitors during this month, “we have to recognize that for us in Eastern Westmoreland, agriculture has always been and will always remain the backbone of economic activity and the principal means for earning a living and providing employment for our people”.
Mr. Patterson added, “we want to make our people entrepreneurs and we want to make them self employed and we therefore have sought to create mechanisms by which we can assist our farmers to be able to rear animals as one very important ingredient,” Prime Minister Patterson noted.
He told participants that the present demand for mutton, far exceeded the supply from the goat stock in the country, hence they were expected to replenish the stock by the quality of the goats, which were bred.
Meanwhile, in congratulating the recipients of the goats, Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke said that the production of the small ruminant goat and sheep, had great potentials and that Jamaica was only producing 10 per cent of the country’s need for goat meat.
“We have been able overtime, through the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project and through our own research development division, which established a goat commercialization project, to begin to move the stock of goats in the island,” he informed, adding, “we have been growing by 10 per cent over the past few years but still not enough . however we have just identified some $50 million that we are going to be putting into goat production over the island”.
Mr. Clarke assured farmers that as soon as the receipts books provided for under the Agricultural Produce (Amendment) Act were ready thieves would be under greater scrutiny and surveillance. “We are talking about rural development . the goat rearing project is not just about rearing goats, it is about finding ways and means to keep our young people in the rural areas . economic activities must go on in the rural areas if we are going to keep our people in these areas,” Minister Clarke told participants.
He highlighted other projects that were being established in order to motivate more young people to get involved in the agricultural sector, such as apiary culture and a variety of tree-crop productions.

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