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Members of the Farm Group in South Field, St. Elizabeth, showcase the Irrigation equipment given to the group by the Caribbean Development Bank.
Photo: Michael Sloley

Story Highlights

  • Farmers in Bull Savannah and Southfield, St. Elizabeth, are reaping the benefits of a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) investment in irrigation and farm training methodologies.
  • The project, valued at $69 million, was executed by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), and provided irrigation systems to two groups of approximately 300 farmers.
  • The training component, jointly coordinated by JSIF and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), focused on farm and crop management; spray calibration; financial management; integrated pest management; food handling; record keeping; and land preparation.

Farmers in Bull Savannah and Southfield, St. Elizabeth, are reaping the benefits of a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) investment in irrigation and farm training methodologies.

The project, valued at $69 million, was executed by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), and provided irrigation systems to two groups of approximately 300 farmers.

The training component, jointly coordinated by JSIF and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), focused on farm and crop management; spray calibration; financial management; integrated pest management; food handling; record keeping; and land preparation.

Operations Officer at the CDB, Karl Pivott, says the Bank is pleased with the project’s implementation, noting that while many of the farmers do not own land, they have been leasing property.

This, he notes, is indicative of the extent to which the beneficiaries were and are prepared to maximise their livelihoods.

Mr. Pivott also highlights the fact that a significant number of the farmers are female, adding that “we are happy to see that the women are taking the initiative and using farming as their livelihood, as a lot of them are the breadwinners [for their families]”.

“If they can benefit, and make life better for themselves, then we will be quite happy,” he further states.

The CDB Executive describes the difference between the traditional labour-intensive irrigation process and the newly developed system, as “amazing”.

The irrigation project was one of great need for the residents, who lamented the extent to which St. Elizabeth was being impacted by protracted drought.

Member of the Bull Savannah Farm Group, Tracey Powell, recounts that periods of drought recorded last year were among the worst she has experienced.

“Thanks to the system, we were able to reap a successful crop. “Since the CDB [came in] our lives have improved,” she says, while expressing gratitude for the CDB’s intervention.

Ms. Powell and other farmers and residents point out that the irrigation system is a significant improvement on what previously obtained, as the process is less manual and can be administered with just the turn of a valve.

Prior to the intervention, the farmers were forced to purchase water. However, the lack of storage facilities resulted in their inability to acquire adequate volumes that could last for extended periods. Consequently, they lost a significant amount of produce.

In relation to the training component, the farmers in Bull Savannah say they were suffering financial losses, as they were unaware of the best practices in farming techniques.

“Back in the day, we were just farmers. But we are now businessmen and businesswomen,” Ms. Powell declares.

The farmers say they now have a better understanding and appreciation for the various chemicals and their use, hence they have been able to be more efficient in making purchases and application of the formulations.

Additionally, they say prior to the project, they would not have been keeping a record of expenditures. However, with the farm management books received through the project, they are now recording and keeping account of what is spent as well as their yield and profits.

Ms. Powell cites the need to employ the best practices learnt under the programme, noting that “we have a responsibility to put into use the practices taught to us”.

“As we know, we supply produce from the farm straight to the table, and what we do here in the farm today, might end up on your table tomorrow,” she adds.

She further notes that “150 farmers are smiling today because of the funding of this project, and we would love for other persons to benefit from this project”.

Meanwhile, the project beneficiaries have formed a charity group – the ‘Bull Savannah Benevolent Society’.

“Our first initiative undertaken when we started was to have a Christmas treat for the community, where we tried to give everyone a gift from the Benevolent Society,” Ms. Powell informs.

The Society continued their work by having a back-to-school treat, which saw more than 200 children receiving supplies.

Additionally, the farmers have sought to educate other farmers who did not benefit from the training.

“We are happy for this opportunity to uplift ourselves, which will help us to uplift our community and eventually the world,” Ms. Powell says.

Meanwhile, the farmers say other persons have also benefited indirectly from the project. They include water suppliers, higglers, drivers, hardwares and farm employees.

The Southfield farm group, which is also 150 members strong with 75 per cent being female, is equally grateful for the irrigation system and training.

President, Fay Mulgrave, indicates that last year, the farmers experienced five months of severe drought, which really made them appreciate the drip irrigation system even more.

The farmers point out that getting water was usually quite expensive, explaining that they would have to pay $16,000 for 4,000 gallons.

She says the CDB’s intervention has significantly transformed their activities from being predominantly manual and is helping with time management.

Additionally, Ms. Mulgrave says they do not require as many farm employees with the new system, which is also creating savings.

She notes that many of the females in the group are the breadwinners for their families, and even have second jobs. As such, they depend on farming to help to feed their dependents.

Produce from these farms are sold to higglers, but are also used to supply some hotels.

Public Relations Officer for the group, Sylvan Powell, says the project has equipped the members with the knowledge and understanding of how to better manage their operations.

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