The community of Clifton in St. Catherine has established a farm on more than seven acres of land donated by the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited (SCJH).
Residents of the area, mainly females, are cultivating okra, corn, tomato, lettuce and other crops. They will use earnings from the venture to help young single mothers, train young males, and beautify the community.
“We are really blessed with the opportunity that SCJ has given us. It is profitable, and we want to mobilise our youngsters in farming. We are very grateful,” said President of the Clifton Citizens Association, Natalee Walker, in an interview with JIS News.
She added that the farm is motivating community members to chart their development, and more persons need to join the process.
“To see something start from scratch, and growing… is very motivating,” the Citizens’ Association President said.
Miss Walker noted that most of the crops are in high demand, and that the women take pride in making daily treks to the farm, as they are keen on pushing human development in the area.
The area is being upgraded under the SCJH Community Regularisation Programme with infrastructural works. A community centre was recently handed over to the residents, the agency sponsored several sporting events and is coordinating training for young people.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, recently distributed various crop seeds to operators of the farm.
He encouraged them to help in cutting the bill spent annually for importation of food for the tourist industry. “We want you to put the seven acres into production,” the State Minister told the residents.
Mr. Green said establishment of the agricultural venture for Clifton is part of the Government’s effort to empower the community.
“We are equipping the community with the necessary facilities, and structures that can guide its transformation,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the SCJH, Joseph Shoucair, informed that along with the lands, the community has access to irrigation water.
“This should provide some level of engagement for members of the community, to realise some profit, which can be deployed in defraying some expenses of community activities,” he told JIS News.
Mr. Shoucair said the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has been “engaged” to assist with the community farm, and other State entities will be on board to make it a success.
He added that his agency has provided the residents with planting material, fertilisers, and is ready to provide more land, and “whatever else that is needed to enhance the farm”.
Mr. Shoucair said that Clifton is a farming community, and with water and land, the residents will be able to earn income for themselves and to develop the area.
“We thought that starting them off with 7.5 acres of land, preparing it for them with the inputs, give them a start, they can expand. It is a grant to assist the community, to occupy its young people, give them skills training in farming, and to earn money for the running of the community organisation,” Mr. Shoucair said.
Treasurer of the Clifton Citizens Association, Diedre Bogle, said that members of the group have fun in planting the crops, and are rallying around the President to ensure that their vision for the area is realised.
“I am so overjoyed. I have never done anything like this before, and I look forward to it. Every time Natalee calls, we are there with her.
We do everything,” Miss Bogle said, adding that the project has also brought unity among community members.
Under the Community Regularistion Programme, run by the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings, the old estate houses for sugar workers will be upgraded and several amenities will be constructed in the community and residents given titles for the lands.
SCJ Holdings is owned by the Government of Jamaica, with a mission to provide efficient land management services that will foster sustainable, economic and social development in former sugar-dependent communities.