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JIS News

With the cost of food impacting heavily on the average householder, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, (RADA), is encouraging ‘Backyard Gardening’, a standardized programme overseen by its Social Services/Home Economics Unit.
In an interview with JIS News, Manager of the Unit, Lorna Gooden, says the backyard gardening project is part of the overall nutrition programme within the unit. “We work with rural women (rural farm families) and we teach them nutrition, in order to help them to improve their knowledge and their attitudes and practices in family nutrition and food preparation,” she explains.
The Manager points out that this is geared towards preventing the occurrence of malnutrition, particularly among infants and to increase the participation of rural farm families in home food production, that is, producing some of the food that you have to eat, in your backyard.
She points out that the programme was initiated from the inception of RADA, in 1990, when the unit became part of the organization’s extension delivery service. Mrs. Gooden highlights some of the benefits of home food production. “You can provide your family with nutritious and fresh foods; you can save a lot of money if you do not have to buy expensive foods in the market; you can earn money by selling some of what you grow; and you can also preserve some of what you grow for later use,” she tells JIS News.
Even though the nutrition programme is geared mainly towards rural farm families, Mrs. Gooden says the programme is also encouraged in urban areas. “Urban people might not have land space, but might need to grow these crops in their containers; so it also includes container gardening,” she adds.
She notes that the programme has been extended to include some schools in the Corporate Area, church groups, senior citizens groups, and any grouping of persons who need the assistance.
Mrs. Gooden says despite the challenges, she feels the programme has been successful. “A lot of our home food producers complain of not having enough money to fence, for example, the little plot they are growing, and you have stray animals that will eat the crops. Sometimes they suffer from flooding when there is excessive rain or adverse weather conditions, but on a whole, I can say it has been successful. It has helped households to improve on their meals and to really provide nutritious mixes of food within their little plots to satisfy the family nutrition,” she points out.
The Manager also notes that the Ministry of Agriculture would be providing more assistance soon. “We are not able to get to as many persons as we would like, because of the limited number in our staffing. However, the Ministry has recognized the need, and is promoting a larger back-yard gardening programme, which will include the provision of gardening kits,” she says.
“That is to be rolled out at a later date, but in the meantime, we continue in our limited way to help to ease the pressure, especially in these times when the cost of food is expensive,” she adds.
Mrs. Gooden tells JIS News that in addition to teaching the people how to grow the crops, the Home Economics Unit also has the responsibility of teaching them how to utilize them in their meals. “We teach them how to preserve.we also use these foods as food promotion activities to show the versatility of our local foods,” the Manager says.
“The satisfaction is not just to satisfy your nutrition needs but also it’s a means of getting exercise. Most of all, you can get the pleasure of knowing that you grow the food at your family table, all by yourself,” she says.
Newly appointed RADA Parish Manager for Kingston and St. Andrew, Stanley Dodd, says there are various segments under the programme, which range from livestock (which are mainly chickens), to crops, which include vegetables and legumes.
He says the programme can be carried out by anyone and it encourages ordinary persons to do farming.
“We mostly do rural agriculture, but we do some urban agriculture in Kingston and St. Andrew. It is not just a rural thing; it is something that can be done by any householder or any family,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Dodd says he is hoping to start a programme in Kingston and St. Andrew, as “there are backyard gardens but they are not organized or promoted by us.”
“Backyard gardening essentially refers to the proximity and easy access to fresh produce, in that, it prevents you having to go to the market as the crops are readily available right at home,” he points out.
He says the main benefit of the programme is economic, as instead of having to purchase everything that you need as food, you will be able to provide this for yourself at a low cost. “When you reap the crops fresh, it is more presentable and more palatable,” he adds.
Mr. Dodd also notes that the programme saves time, in that, persons can just step outside (their houses) and reap, and they are sure of the conditions under which the crops are grown. Public Health Inspectors, he says, visit the gardens that have already been established to see how well persons are keeping them, and if they are following correct procedures.
He says the programme “has been catching on, allowing a lot of us to have a better appreciation for farming.”
Persons who need more information about the programme, can contact Mrs. Gooden at RADA’s head office at 977-1158-60.