- Agriculture remains one of the most significant economic mainstay within the Parish of St. Elizabeth.
- John Muir who is a farmer in the Parish, says he was benefited from the services of the Agency for over ten years.
- “I’ve been with RADA for over 25 years [and] they have been doing well for the farmers in the area,” Mr. Cogle states.
Agriculture remains one of the most significant economic mainstay within the Parish of St. Elizabeth.
The over 30,000 registered farmers in the Parish have been ably guided in best practices by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Industry Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
RADA’s St. Elizabeth Parish Agricultural Manager, Nathan Samuels tells JIS News that the Parish has contributed to over 20.5 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in agriculture.
“It’s no coincidence why it is nicknamed the ‘Bread Basket’ [Parish] and because of that, we know from a RADA perspective as well as Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) perspective and the stakeholders involved, that we have an awesome task in representing the farmers of St. Elizabeth,” he added.
The Parish is divided into two geographical locations, north and south. In the northern section focus is placed primarily on ground provisions such as Irish Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Dasheens and Yams. For the southern section, focus is placed on farming vegetables, fruits and manufacturing condiments.
The Agency further divides the parish into 14 extension areas served by 14 extension officers. These extension officers are supported by six agricultural assistants and three parish officers, who specialize in livestock, marketing and home economics.
“For the year 2017-2018, we have produced in excess of 40 tonnes of vegetables, 35 tonnes of fruits, 15 tonnes of condiments, 15 tonnes of Irish potatoes and in one season, yams and other tubers were 14600 tonnes and legumes were more than 5000 tonnes,” Mr. Samuels informs.
“We have planted over the  period, more than 15,000 hectares of crops and we have reaped over that same period more than 12,000 hectares of crops. This contributes more than $14.5 billion to the economy,” he adds.
RADA has also been reaping success in the implementation of the Ministry’s Irish Potato and Onion Production Programmes in St. Elizabeth.
Some 50 hectares of Irish potatoes were planted last spring and autumn by just under 300 farmers, which have so far yielded more than 479 tonnes of the crop.
For the onion programme, approximately eight hectares of onions were planted this past spring by 30 farmers and that has so far produced more than 11 tonnes of onions for this year’s production season.
“We at RADA have recognized the importance of crop production and so we have constructed a greenhouse nursery at the RADA office where we are currently providing seedlings for sale,” Mr. Samuels tells JIS News.
“We have been doing tomatoes and sweet peppers. We are about to indulge in hot peppers which is scotch bonnet and red peppers, and just recently we added to that a fruit tree crop nursery, where we are now making fruit tree seedlings available for sale for farmers in the parish,” he adds.
He further informs that the RADA St. Elizabeth office currently has in stock orange seedlings, lime, lemon, East Indian mangoes, ‘Julie’ mangoes, naseberries, sweet sop, soursop and avocado pears.
RADA’s involvement in St. Elizabeth, however, goes beyond the scope of food security and sustainable earnings. The agency also spearheads ongoing training for farmers in the various extension areas, in Junction, Southfield, Malvern and Pedro Plains.
These training sessions compliment the marketing aspects of the agency that prides itself on creating Agri-linkages for farmers to market their produce.
“We have to train our farmers in order for them to fit into this new regime that is upon us and when I speak of new regime, I speak of marketing. We pride ourselves that in the 14 parishes of Jamaica, you will find a farmer from St. Elizabeth in those market places and so it is our duty to train our farmers in best practices in agriculture,” Mr. Samuels states.
For the reported period 2018-2019, RADA has undertaken more than 259 training sessions.
“We have trained approximately 8300 farmers. We have conducted approximately 9000 farm visits where we have met with farmers individually,” he states.
In addition to JAS, the St. Elizabeth RADA Office also has the support of other bodies such as Production Marketing Organisation (PMO) groups and benevolent societies. The organizations collaborate to build capacity and maximize the reach of farmers in the parish.
“Every time you eat something, thank a farmer,” Mr Samuels points out.
John Muir who is a farmer in the Parish, says he was benefited from the services of the Agency for over ten years.
He commends the extension officers for facilitating the needs of farmers with livestock, crops, equipment and valued information.
“Once I had some cows and I needed a straw and they were there for me to give me that straw for the cows. Again, I needed some drip holes and all of a sudden my extension officer popped up to me and say, ‘go to RADA there is something there for you’. That was really excellent,” Mr. Muir tells JIS News.
“Once you register and you communicate with them, trust me you have no problem. They will always be there for you,” the farmer adds.
For his part, Anton Cogle attributes the success of many farmers to the efforts made by RADA.
“I’ve been with RADA for over 25 years [and] they have been doing well for the farmers in the area,” Mr. Cogle states.