The newly appointed Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon. Lester Michael Henry, wants to see more women involved in the Seasonal Agriculture Workers programme (SAWP) between Jamaica and Canada.
He made his call on July 8 2020, during a courtesy call at his office by the Canadian High Commission to Jamaica, Her Excellency, Laurie Peters.
According to Minister Henry, while there has been a steady minimal increase over the last five (5) years, the time has come to intensify this effort and significantly increase the numbers. He suggested that in light of COVID 19 and the previous challenges faced by the oversees employers, it would be a positive move to have the Canadian Government give some incentives to the employers to provide safe, secure and female friendly bunkering facilities.
He said in 1989 five women were sent to a tobacco farm, this number of women grew to one hundred and thirty three (133) in 2008 and by the 2019/2020 financial year the number increased to 606 under the SAWP, which he noted is still lower than their male counter parts.
In the meantime, High Commissioner Peters, said she is in agreement with Minister Henry’s proposal but, she also wants to keep as her priorities the cementing of the Bilateral Agreements between the two countries and promoting the implementation of other worker programmes by the Canadian Government, including the Skills to Access the Green Economy (SAGE).
She says this programme is administered in Canada through colleges and other institutions and resembles the Jamaican version of Vocational Schools. Focusing on sustainable agriculture, the programme will be a partnership between two institutions in Canada and two in Jamaica; one of them being the HEART/TRUST NTA.
Since the start of the year, six thousand (6000) workers left Jamaica on the Farm Work programme; 75% are returning workers who have spent 20-30 years in the programme and another 20-25 % new recruits. In addition, there was a record increase in the number of young person to the programme.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) began in 1966 under a Bilateral Agreement between Jamaica and Canada for the supply of agricultural workers to utilize their skills in planting and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.