JIS News

Story Highlights

  • 22 farmers and eight extension officers trained in pest management procedures.
  • 2012 outbreak destroyed $31 million in crops
  • The beet armyworm has had a debilitating effect on onion and escallion

To combat the dreaded beet armyworm on local onion and escallion production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has completed the training of some 22 farmers and eight extension officers in pest management procedures.

The training course comes against the background of the 2012 outbreak of the pest, which resulted in the destruction of some 45 hectares of crops valued at approximately $31 million.

The beet armyworm has had a debilitating effect on onion and escallion cultivation and the livelihood of farmers in South St. Elizabeth.

The 22 lead farmers from Junction and Gillards in St. Elizabeth, and eight Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) facilitators, were presented with their certificates in Integrated Pest Management on August 21, during a graduation ceremony held on the grounds of the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, who was guest speaker at the function, said the knowledge and skills which the graduates have acquired will now serve national efforts to combat the impact of the pest on the cultivation and production of onions and escallion.

He noted that the 22 lead farmers will now go on to work in pairs to train an additional 150 farmers in pest management procedures, particularly as it relates to combating the beet armyworm.

The eight RADA extension officers, he said, are also expected to transition into a mentorship role to guide the newly trained farmers. Additionally, they will provide technical assistance in support of the Agro-Invest Corporation initiative to develop Agro-Parks in the production of over 717 acres of onions.

For her part, Assistant Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in Jamaica, Karen Pyne, said the Farmer Field School took a very practical and ‘hands-on’ approach in equipping the farmers with the knowledge and expertise needed to tackle the pest.

She informed that the training programme enabled farmers and facilitators to study the beet armyworm in their natural habitat and applied the realistic management approaches to their own experiences.

For her part, Deputy Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Jeannette Vail, congratulated the graduates, noting that they are now leaders in their field.

She said the programme has provided them with the knowledge and expertise needed to combat and put an end to the beet armyworm pest.

“Without you, we can’t combat this problem, and so, I ask you to go do the good work and share this information with your fellow farmers,” Ms. Vail said.

The ‘Strengthening a National Beet Armyworm Programme’ is organised by the Government of Jamaica, with funding support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The programme is being implemented under the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH) project.