Certificates have been presented to 27 young men, following their completion of a 16-hour training course in hand-held tractor operation, under the Employment Creation Programme.
The programme, which is spearheaded by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), is part of ongoing efforts to create jobs for Jamaicans across the agricultural sector.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the project is just one component of RADA’s plan to make available 1,200 jobs through participation in agriculture.
The Minister was speaking at the presentation ceremony, held at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices, in St. Andrew, on April 18.
“Job creation is at the centre of this Government’s thrust. This (programme) is a part of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) and 27 young people will now have an opportunity to get employment and be productive,” he said.
The JEEPis one of the strategies of the Government to respond to the chronic unemployment status of some Jamaicans, particularly those in the lower socio-economic group, persons with special needs as well as those with low skill levels.
Mr. Clarke informed that so far, through initiatives spearheaded by RADA, some 156 jobs have been created, while 110 persons have been employed through the European Union Banana Support Employment Project, managed by agency.
Under the initiatives, targeted interventions have been undertaken in crop production, apiculture, livestock, customer service, nursery operation and cocoa resuscitation.
Additionally, the Minister outlined that several jobs have been created in a number of RADA controlled facilities in an effort to increase opportunities for Jamaicans in the sector. These include: the bammy factory at Twickenham Park, which employs four persons; the Agri-mart, which created jobs for two persons; the women’s group in Sommerset, St. Thomas, were also given equipment and requisite training, and they in turn have employed five persons.
Mr. Clarke further said that RADA nurseries operating in the parishes of Manchester, St. James, St. Andrew and Hanover have also employed nine persons to date.
“The jobs are being created. We are getting our people into profitable ventures and we are beefing up support to the subsectors that need assistance the most,” he added.
The Minister said that the Employment Creation Programme is just another attempt to fulfill the Government’s commitment to provide and create jobs. “We intend to keep the jobs coming,” he said.
The need for certified hand-held tractor operators was identified against the background of RADA’s deployment of 17 tractors across the island for hire by farmers or persons in need of land tillage services.
The machines, valued at $13 million, were purchased with funds from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Bolivarian Alternative for Americas (ALBA) Project to boost land preparation for small farmers in the various farming communities in some of the major production areas of the island.
Minister Clarke encouraged the tractor operators to take good care of the machines. The trainees were taken from across all 14 parishes, as the Ministry sought to ensure that the selection process was impartial by selecting two persons per parish.
“Already, we have a backlog of some 141 farmers and stakeholders who are awaiting the tractor services that you will deliver,” the Minister told the operators.
“This demand is expected to increase in short order through advertisements placed in the print media, cable stations and on community notice boards, as well as through RADA’s text messaging service,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer, RADA, Al Powell, said the Employment Creation Programme is a significant milestone for RADA, as it strengthens the agency’s contribution to the production and growth of the agricultural sector.
“This is only the beginning, because over the next three months, May to June, we intend to add at least another 100 jobs within the agricultural sector, including working with the Social Development Commission (SDC) in the inner cities to establish viable agricultural programmes,” he noted.
The CEO said that in creating jobs, the agency has had to be very innovative and creative. “We have not created jobs that will last for just a week or two…we have created jobs that will be sustainable,” he noted.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter