- The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has, as its core mission, the development of the agricultural sector, which will, in turn, enhance the economy and improve the quality of life for rural farming families.
- RADA Extension Officer for St. Catherine, Newton Brown, describes his interaction with farmers as fulfilling and critical.
- Mr. Forbes also highlights the value of the farmers being registered and attending the various RADA sessions hosted by RADA, as well as adhering to the practices recommended.
The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has, as its core mission, the development of the agricultural sector, which will, in turn, enhance the economy and improve the quality of life for rural farming families.
This is a mission which RADA is seeking to fulfill as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
It is also this commitment which drives RADA’s over 200 front line extension officers and field assistants, who work hand in hand with the country’s farmers to ensure productivity through meaningful interaction and assistance.
Principal Director of RADA’s Field Services and Operations Division, Winston Simpson, says as the extension arm of the Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry, the agency is the first point of contact with stakeholders, the main ones being the farmers.
“We are, therefore, geared at giving them all the technical services from the get-go. As soon as you think about farming or think about agriculture, then you interface with RADA,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Simpson explained that these services are provided through varying programmes and projects. These include: the Land Husbandry and On-farm Irrigation programmes, as well as Tractor Services and Livestock Production and Management programme, the Food and Nutrition programme, and the Agro Food Processing programme, among several others.
He notes that RADA strives to ensure that these programmes stay functional to enable farmers to cope with potential and evolving challenges and risks, and see how best they can survive and maintain productivity.
“We also strive to keep production at a level that we can impact positively on the food import bill,” he further points out, adding that the recent reduction in the bill is a positive indication and outcome of the collaborative efforts with farmers.
Additionally, Mr. Simpson further notes that through strong extension service delivery, RADA offered significant support to farmers affected by harsh drought over the past few years, resulting in several areas still recording crop yields.
“RADA is a rural organisation and, as such, we aim to ensure that the rural farm families have a better life,” he points out.
Mr. Simpson points out that in accordance with its vision to be a leader in the drive to achieve national economic growth, stability and development, the agency operates under a strategic pillow to broaden and strengthen its programmes.
“The main focus now is to improve the overall operation of the organisation, through improvement of production and productivity of crops and livestock, the encouragement of new entrants to the sector with a focus on women and youth, and a focus on capacity building,” he outlines.
Coderick Farquharson has been farming on the Amity Hall Agro Park in
St. Catherine for the past five years, where he cultivates a range of crops including, Scotch bonnet peppers, sweet peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.
His farm currently occupies 10 acres of the Agro Park, which is one of several such facilities across the island, implemented and managed by the Agriculture Ministry, through the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC).
Through the Agro Park programme, the AIC makes lands available to groups of small farmers as well as larger investors, and facilitates access to modern inputs.
Mr. Farquharson says over the years, he has consistently received significant support through RADA’s extension services, which have contributed to his farm’s productivity.
“In terms of technical support from RADA officers, they play a critical role. They are the key link between the Government research station at Bodles (in St. Catherine), where they get the information and pass it on to us, the farmers. They are (also) a key link with marketing for the purchase of fresh produce from the farmers. They also link us with the companies that sell pesticides and chemicals,” he explains.
Mr. Farquharson says he is appreciative of the technical knowledge provided through RADA workshops and field days, which bring together farmers and a wide cross section of stakeholders and experts.
“All agricultural production starts with good land preparation, and they give this type of technical support and then they move to variety selection…then they move into pest control – insect pest and disease control – in which they have been a tower of strength,” he states.
Mr. Farquharson points out that farmers also receive input support, such as chemicals, fertilisers and herbicides, while highlighting the assistance he and colleagues received in order to recover from the effects of the drought.
He says he consistently reaps approximately 800 pounds of pepper per week over a six-month period, adding that his cultivations also yield some 10,000 pounds of pumpkin per acre.
“What I would advise all farmers to do is, as soon as they have the concept of farming in mind, they should go to the (nearest) RADA office and register… (and) get their identification card. The RADA officer will be aware of that farmer’s location and visit on a regular basis; and the support they will get is tremendous,” Mr. Farquharson informs.
RADA Extension Officer for St. Catherine, Newton Brown, describes his interaction with farmers as fulfilling and critical.
Mr. Brown, whom the farmers describe as accessible and cooperative, is often seen in the fields with them.
He says farmers are encouraged to comply with the directives of the extension officers and ascribe to the best practices provided through workshops and training sessions. While noting that some farmers are “set in their ways”, he points out that many comply and are able to see results.
“The objective is to really help the farmer to increase his production and productivity; and by doing so, that will allow him to get more money from what he produces which will be able to improve his standard of living,” Mr. Brown states.
Another farmer who operates from the Amity Hall Agro Park, Dean Forbes, also expresses appreciation for the support he has received through RADA’s extension services, since he started in 2012.
“Our RADA extension officers have always been available…even…on weekends. In terms of helping to scout the fields and making recommendations (regarding) crop care, they are always reachable,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Forbes also highlights the value of the farmers being registered and attending the various RADA sessions hosted by RADA, as well as adhering to the practices recommended.
Theodore Clarke, a member of the Colbeck Water-Users Group in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, is one of the farmers participating in the Onion Development Programme, which was started in 2014 under the Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) Adaptation Fund Programme, to reduce the importation of the condiment. He cultivates onions on a one-acre plot of land in Colbeck.
Mr. Clarke says he is also appreciative of the support received through RADA, noting that, prior to getting involved, he had limited knowledge about onion cultivation.
“Through RADA, I was able to get very useful information and technical advice, which allowed me to join the project…If it wasn’t for the assistance from RADA, this would not have been possible,” he tells JIS News.
In 2014, he reaped approximately 7,000 pounds of onion from a one-acre plot. He anticipates a 100 per cent increase in production from this year’s crop, which will be harvested by the end of April.
Mr. Clarke also hails RADA for providing the benefits he has enjoyed by being involved in the project.