JIS News

A plan to develop organic agriculture in St. Thomas is currently under review by the Ministry of Agriculture and if implemented, the $4 million project is expected to revolutionize the small farming sector in the parish.
According to State Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, and Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, if approved by the Agriculture Ministry, the plan would allow the utilization of lands by small farmers currently not under production or idle.
Dr. Ferguson told JIS News that the plan would look at a “revolving goat or pig project that could be handled comfortably by small farmers.that would be a good start in getting rural development going.”
He further added that folks in rural Jamaica now had to recognize that Agriculture had to be the driving force for rural development.
“It can’t however be in its present form,” he lamented, adding “the development of the WTO (World Trade Organisation), the FTAA (Free Trade Areas of the Americas) and other developments on the horizon are significant,” he stated.
Minister Ferguson added, “Unless we tidy-up ourselves in relation to the modernization process and re-emphasize certain select crops we’re going to be moving from crisis to crisis. The way forward is via the value added route.”
He further noted that “even as there is serious contemplation being given to the future of sugar, which has a significant impact on the survival of several rural economies, consideration must be given to other marginal lands on sugar estates that can be put into other areas such as orchard crops, livestock and other integrated systems.”
One such avenue that could be considered is hydroponics. Dr. Ferguson pointed out that this was an area waiting to be capitalized on since so many persons went on farm work overseas and were exposed to and worked with this system. “We now have to capture that group when they come back to Jamaica after spending sometime up to nine months working with this system,” he said.
“We now have our own experts who are primarily in rural Jamaica, and they can be the knowledge base for institutions such as the agricultural schools,” he pointed out.
Dr. Ferguson said based on that realization rural schools should be at the vanguard, driving the model of value added agriculture and that the concept of school gardens in all primary schools with land either available or adjacent to it, should be encouraged.
He said, “it is this concept that signals the true value and importance of the 4-H movement and theory that primary schools, particularly those in rural communities should have a 4-H club in their midst.”
Dr. Ferguson said the value added concept of agriculture had been a constant theme of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and that the Clubs’ growth and involvement in rural schools coupled with the plan to develop organic agriculture could be the catalyst for the advancement of agriculture as the engine of growth for rural development.