JIS News

About 100 farmers in the communities of Top Mountain, Guys Hill and their environs in North East St. Catherine, are to benefit from a $47 million European Union (EU) funded banana rehabilitation agricultural project, Member of Parliament, Gregory Mair, has disclosed.
The project, which he says is a partnership, is expected to help farmers previously engaged in banana cultivation, as well as other stakeholders impacted by the industry’s fall-out which resulted in an economic downturn within the sector, to identify alternative crops which can offer them a sustainable livelihood.
The EU project is expected to include, among other things, greenhouse technology, which has also been incorporated into the $6 million Top Mountain Protected Agriculture Cluster and Training Centre project, in which four farmers are currently participating.
The Top Mountain project is being funded from Mr. Mair’s Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The MP says it is expected to complement what currently obtains at Top Mountain.
Speaking with JIS News following a tour of the Top Mountain project with Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, on Thursday (September 9), Mr. Mair explained that the EU project, which was launched in April, aims to encourage targeted stakeholders to embrace the greenhouse technology, while pointing to other attendant activities.
“They are in the procurement process for the greenhouses. What they are doing is drip irrigation.they are also (providing) training (in) other forms of techniques, even in open field. So it’s a comprehensive programme,” he outlined
Mr. Mair said it is hoped that the beneficiaries will relay the knowledge they have acquired to their colleagues, “so it will be a catalyst to a new way of doing farming”.
“The whole idea is that when this programme is finished, in a year’s time, we will bring about the aspect of coordinating all the farmers with the retailers, the marketing aspect; so that we can have a flow from the farmer straight into the market,” he stated.
He said he was extremely grateful to EU for their support to the farmers, who have been dislocated by the change in the policy as far as banana is concerned, worldwide, and is looking forward to better times for the farmers of North East St. Catherine.
“We want the paradigm shift to occur, and (for them to) realize that we want to bring about 21st century agriculture, which is fitting right into the vision of the present government and our Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Tufton,” Mr. Mair added.
The Agriculture Minister pointed out that several government-driven greenhouse projects have been implemented across the island, and that there are a number of private entities which have also come on board.
“So it’s safe to say that, in terms of this particular technology, it is catching on and becoming more a norm than an exception; which is a very positive development,” Dr. Tufton said.

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