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Jamaica is among more than 130 countries which have benefitted from upwards of US$20 million in project grant funding from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Telefood Special Fund (TSF), since its establishment in 1997.

Speaking at a recent ceremony involving one of the beneficiaries, Garvey Maceo High School in Vernamfield, Clarendon, FAO Representative to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize, Dr. Jerome Thomas, said that over 300 small projects globally, all designed to be self-sustaining, have each been financed up to a maximum  of  US$10,000 over a 12-month period by the TSF.

Dr. Thomas explained that the Telefood facility targets stakeholders and small and self-sustaining projects deemed to be among the poorest and in greatest need of assistance, thereby assisting to safeguard their food security and, by extension, that of their countries.

Projects, he pointed out, can be undertaken individually or free-standing, or jointly with other activities. These are intended to be used by grant beneficiaries as stepping stones to launching self-sustaining food production and income-generating activities.

“This is done by improving cultivation measures, enhancing poultry slaughtering facilities, and general agricultural and community-based activities. The FAO aims at food security for all, and this is very critical (as) in many parts of the world, this has not materialized,”  Dr. Thomas said.

“ We want to make sure that all people have regular access to enough high quality food, to live active, healthy lives. The FAO (also) has a mandate to raise the levels of nutrition, improve agricultural production and productivity; better the lives of rural populations; and contribute to the growth of the world economy,” he added.

Dr. Thomas said the financing provided is derived from the proceeds generated from Telefood, an annual campaign of broadcast concerts and other fund-raising events; one of which, he pointed out, was hosted by Jamaica several years ago. Additionally, he explained that the initiative also aims to heighten awareness of hunger, pointing out that the projects undertaken “help hungry people to help themselves,” and in other cases, facilitate improvement in technology, where such applications are utilised.

The FAO Representative disclosed that over the years, Telefood campaigns have yielded over US$29 million in donations, which have funded small projects globally.

Data from the FAO’s local office show that some 31 projects have been financed at a cost of US$310,000, since Jamaica commenced receiving grant funding assistance from the TSF in 2001. These have been undertaken by schools; community groups and organisations; and state facilities, such as infirmaries and children’s homes.

A breakdown of the data shows community groups accounting for the largest number of projects undertaken, thus far, with 14, followed by high schools with 11. Two projects each have been undertaken at all-age schools and infirmaries, with one being initiated at a children’s home.

Dr. Thomas said the projects are expected to deliver inputs, such as seeds, fertilisers and equipment “directly to the beneficiaries.”  Additionally, he said the projects are expected to be environmentally safe, and sustainable.

“The TSF is fairly easy to access…all you have to do is account for what we give; and there is only one report that is required (to be submitted),” he pointed out.

The allocation of US$10,000 to Garvey Maceo High School was used to refurbish the poultry abattoir on the farm. The facility was officially handed over to the school’s administration, by officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and FAO, during the recent ceremony at the institution.

Project Manager in the Ministry, Adrian-Charles Stewart, said the initial abattoir structure was not deemed suitable to meet the target of comfortably accommodating 50 students and their teachers. Against this background, he said the matter was brought to the attention of the Ministry’s Economic Planning Division, which forwarded a request for TSF grant assistance to the FAO.

Mr. Stewart said the Ministry, in collaboration with the FAO and the school, undertook several field visits as part of efforts to develop a suitable design for the newly refurbished abattoir. The project, he informed, entailed expansion of the original structure to include: a sheltered ventilated slaughter area with the requisite equipment; an eviscerating room; and a spacious area to accommodate students and teachers.

“The project also provided the school with 200 broiler chickens with feed, medication, sanative articles, and other poultry equipment. (It was intended) that a more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing environment be created that would be conducive to the learning of poultry science,” Mr. Stewart said.     

Local Government and Community Development Minister and Member of Parliament for south west Clarendon, where the school is situated, Hon. Noel Arscott, described the undertaking as a “significant project.”

 “I welcome any initiative that contributes to the growth and development of south west Clarendon, and in enhancing our schools’ ability to be of service to the community,” he added.

Mr. Arscott described Garvey Maceo High School as one of the area’s premier secondary education institutions, which has been providing a vital service to Clarendon for nearly 32 years.

“I am happy to see that the administration is maintaining its original focus (of) putting emphasis on technical and agricultural education, even as they expand their reach into other areas, having recently upgraded the science lab,” said Mr. Arscott, a former teacher at the school.

Noting that farming, and agriculture, in general, provided the “basis of subsistence” for the nation, through the production of food and raw materials, the Minister stressed the importance of the country producing more of what it consumes and lessening dependence on imports.

“In this regard, this abattoir will be a great asset to the community of south west Clarendon and beyond. It must be gratifying to see months of hard work come together, and to know that its impact will ripple into the future, as the students will be equipped with the knowledge to be productive farmers, starting their own businesses and providing employment for others,” he said.

For his part, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, acknowledged the FAO’s “continued commitment and partnership with the government,” through technical and financial support, in advancing the agricultural sector. This, he said, had resulted in the refurbishing of the Garvey Maceo High School abattoir.

Mr. Clarke applauded the agricultural programme at the school, noting that, “the students’ involvement (in agriculture) gives me hope that the sustainability of the sector is in good hands."

“I have no doubt that the upgraded facility will provide a better learning experience for all who will use it; and I urge you all to take care of it, so that it can be here for a long time,” the Minister urged.

“I am making a push for these young people to be engaged in agriculture, especially since the global community is experiencing a worsening food security challenge. And, as Jamaica finds itself grappling with job losses, aggravated by the global economic crisis, we must look towards agriculture as a means to our prosperity,” Mr. Clarke added.

 

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter