Enterprising residents of two-low income communities in Kingston have set up ornamental fish operations, through which they can earn income for themselves and their families.
The entrepreneurs, from Jones Town and Tower Hill, were beneficiaries under the European Union (EU)-funded ‘Building Skills and Creating Wealth’ project, which was carried out from September 2011 to March 2012. The $13.5 million initiative, funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) through its EU Poverty Reduction Programme, benefited 60 young men and women from the two communities. The aim was to develop a cluster of trained ornamental fish farmers, who could operate their own business.
As a result of the training, and the skilled gained, 50 new ventures have started, with the fish farmers now part of the productive sector, and can begin to supply markets.
At Wednesday’s (March 28) closing ceremony for the project held at the St. Andrew Parish Church Hall in Half-Way-Tree, where the 60 participants also received certificates, Head of The Competitiveness Company (TCC), which carried out the training, Dr. Beverly Morgan, pointed out that there is a large international market for tropical fish.
The TCC will link the farmers with large exporters, who supply the lucrative overseas market. “There is a huge market out there, and you will never be able to access that market on your own. We envisage Jamaica shipping, when this programme is fully fledged, millions of fish per year. The demand is that great,” she stated.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, in his address, said support for small, sustainable community projects, such as these, is important for the growth of the agricultural sector and reducing poverty.
He noted that it was the diligence of the country’s 200,000 small farmers, who kept the domestic food sub-sector thriving, that saw consistent growth in the sector, even in the depths of the global recession.
"I make that point, because sometimes, we believe that we can only succeed if we are big…but what the Ministry is supporting actively is that if we can go into communities and encourage and support enterprises that are sustainable and will make people earn money, that will cause less of our people to stand on the roadside and fool around. If we can encourage that, then cumulatively, those small steps that we make in these communities can have a massive impact, and can in fact, reduce poverty, reverse the rural urban drift, and create better communities and even improve social behaviour," he argued.
Mr. Stanberry said the government will continue to play its part in ensuring that the effort to develop the ornamental fish industry is sustained.
He informed that the Fisheries Division has carried out similar training over the years and provided start-up grants, and gave the undertaking that the Veterinary Services Division will be available to provide services that will ensure the sustainability of the enterprises coming out of the project.
Head of Operations, EU Delegation in Jamaica, Jesus Orus Baguena, in congratulating the farmers, stated that the project is “a beautiful example of what we are targeting. When creativity exists, opportunities are unveiled and with a little bit of extra help, we can change a difficult and trying environment into a new opportunity."
Thirty persons from each community benefitted under the project, who worked in collaboration to ensure that they all had support, which would allow them to be successful, and their enterprises sustainable.
The training curriculum, carried out by TCC, was developed by the Australian National Aquaculture Institute, through funding from the Gates Foundation. The syllabus, which is internationally certified, is said to be the best such training available worldwide, for ornamental fish famers.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter