The cadre of technical staff at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is expected to be increased by more than 100 per cent, with the proposed restructuring of the agency.
This was announced by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, who said the new structure will see RADA’s technical staff moving from 150 to 303 extension/assistant extension officers.
“What this means is that we will now have a ratio of one extension officer to 1,400 farmers with no net increase in costs,” the Minister said, during his contribution to the 2020/21 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (July 1).
Mr. Hutchinson noted that, currently, one extension officer is assigned to serve 2,400 farmers.
He pointed out that increasing the technical staff will allow for more extension officers “to work side by side with farmers and farmers’ groups and create that paradigm shift that will boost agricultural production in Jamaica”.
Mr. Hutchinson informed that over the next quarter, the Ministry will be seeking Cabinet’s approval for the restructuring of RADA.
In the meantime, Mr. Hutchinson noted that the Agricultural Aide Programme, which had been delayed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, has now started with 90 trainees.
The programme is targeting young people aged 18 to 35 from farming communities across the island, who will be trained by HEART/NTSA Trust and extension officers to work with farmers in those communities.
“They will work with the extension officers in the field for one year, after which they will be certified by HEART/NTSA Trust,” he said.
Being rolled out in partnership with the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme, the initiative is aimed at strengthening the extension services by providing support to extension officers and augmenting the work of RADA, while at the same time attracting more young people into farming.