The Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) complement of extension officers has been increased, with the addition of 60 new appointees.
The number brings to 120, the complement of RADA officers, who will provide technical support services to the island’s more than 200,000 farmers, said Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, during a media briefing at the Eden Gardens complex on Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston Thursday March 26.
He advised that the recruitment exercise is the fulfillment of a commitment made by the Government a year ago, to improve the support services, which the Ministry provides to the nation’s farmers through RADA.
Extension Officers conduct demonstration and training day to introduce farmers to the benefits of growing the Tyranus variety of tomatoes.
In addition to providing extension services, the officers will provide the farmers with guidance on best practices in areas such as soil preparation, water management, and marketing.
According to the Minister, the move is intended to cauterise the decline in production and productivity, calculated at 30 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, over the last 15 years.
“We want to improve the prospects of the agricultural sector to be the main player, not just to provide a basis for subsistence existence, but to generate wealth. to generate economic activity,” Dr. Tufton stated, adding that the increase in numbers will improve the ratio of extension officers to farmers, which previously stood at 1:1,500/2,000.
“It is practically impossible for one officer to service 2,000 farmers within a given timeframe and to provide the type of value-added support to farmers,” the Minister pointed out.
As it regards marketing, Dr. Tufton informed that efforts have been made within the last year to boost the marketing component in the sector, by establishing and strengthening a marketing unit within the Ministry. Marketing officers have been recruited and assigned to each RADA parish office islandwide.
“That marketing unit at the head office, linked to the RADA parish offices, will form the basis for collecting appropriate information from end users in the first instance, but also, critically, transmitting that information through the RADA machinery to farmers in the field, so that they can know what the market requires,” Dr. Tufton informed.
“That data of production,” he noted, “will be collected by the marketing officers, working with the other extension officers at the parish level, and updated to be transmitted to the end users, so they (will) know exactly what is available and can, of course plan, in terms of usage of that (data).”
In the meantime, he informed that an additional 14 extension officers have been recruited, and are to be trained in the application of best practices in animal husbandry, specifically in relation to small ruminants such as goats and sheep.
“That, again, is going to add to the value offering of our extension services, a combination effort between RADA and the Veterinary Services Division,” he stated.