JIS News

Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that top of the agenda at this year’s 28th Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 15 (G-15), which was held in Havana, Cuba, from September 12 to 13, were rural development and the conservation of water resources.
In an interview with JIS News on his return from the meeting, the Minister explained that these areas aligned well with the Government’s commitment to rural development, particularly through agriculture.
According to Mr. Clarke, the G-15 Ministers sought to collectively find an answer to the question, “What are the areas critical to sustainably develop our rural communities, through agriculture?”.
He further noted that the G-15 meeting had close synergy with the objectives of the Ministry, and indicated that the meeting’s focus was very similar to the theme: ‘Advancing Rural Development through Agriculture’, under which the 2006 Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show was held.
The Minister also explained that the discussions were in line with the renewed thrust by the Ministry to engender greater involvement in the agricultural sector.
He pointed out that several projects to spur rural development through agriculture, would be implemented in the very near future.
“With this in mind, we are doing all we can to get more women and young people involved in the process of community development through rural agriculture,” the Minister said.
The government increased the budget for the Ministry for the 2006/07 financial year by more than $400 million, to fund programmes that will provide more income earning opportunities for farmers, especially young persons and women.
The Minister reiterated that $128.5 million had been allocated for the purchase of modern irrigation systems for farmers, during this fiscal year, as he was aware of the importance of having irrigated water to support competitive agriculture in these rural areas.
“Irrigation is now under the Ministry, so there is cohesion as we seek to develop agriculture and sustain our rural communities,” he told JIS News.
“We have a major irrigation project going on. We have targeted small irrigation systems, with a view to improving them. We are also upgrading some of the older ones and we have a serious plan to foster increased activity in hydroponics for maximum results,” he pointed out.
Earlier this year, Minister Clarke had noted that the agricultural industry had experienced marked improvements, with the sector being the main contributor to economic growth since the start of the year.
“This year, the Almighty has been good to us and agriculture is now on the rebound. So far this year, in the first quarter, agriculture grew by 24 per cent and in the second quarter ending June, agriculture grew by another 30 per cent. It has been the main contributor to the growth of the economy this year,” he stated.