Some 40 small farmers in St. Mary and St. Thomas are now in a better position to take care of themselves and their families after participating in the just concluded $30 Million European Union (EU) funded Economic Diversification Programme.
The farmers, who were a part of the programme in Esher, St. Mary and Somerset, St. Thomas, were provided with the necessary materials, training, and technical support to enable their engagement in alternative agricultural activities. The initiative focused on the cultivation of scotch bonnet pepper, goat rearing and honey production.
The 17-month project, executed under the EU’s Banana Support Programme (EUBSP), streamlined benefits for targeted farmers impacted by declines in banana production and exports due to natural disasters, falling prices on the world market and non-competitiveness in traditional European markets.
Addressing the 20 St. Mary beneficiaries in a closing ceremony for the Programme at the Esher Seventh Day Adventist Church, on May 17, Guest Speaker, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the project’s conclusion signaled “the beginning” for the farmers as “you have been put on your feet to start something new.”
“I want to congratulate you (because) you have been successful. You have improved on your capabilities to do farming (and) you are appreciating what proper agricultural practice is about. I urge you to impart that knowledge to your colleague farmers within your own communities,” Mr. Clarke urged.
He thanked the EU; the philanthropic entity and implementing organization, Food For the Poor (FFP); and the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA); for their inputs in the project’s success. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had overall supervisory responsibility for the project.
Food For the Poor’s Executive Director, Jacqueline Johnson, declared the programme a “resounding success.”
She said it generated approximately $6.14 million from over 60,000 pounds of peppers, 54 gallons of honey and 34 new goats yielded.
“We are confident that through the imparting of knowledge and skills as well as the development of marketing strategies, this Programme has created a launch pad for small farmers to benefit from new income-generating opportunities and increased possibilities,” she stated.
Mrs. Johnson said that while the programme has concluded, the end results accruing to the farmers are continuing “and some are already making plans for expansion.”
“Our 40 beneficiary farmers are certainly a major source of inspiration for all of us. My wish is that many young Jamaicans will get involved in farming in a serious way,” she stated
Head of Rural Development and Infrastructure with the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Thomas Opperer, in congratulating the farmers, pointed out that the welfare of small farmers, particularly in banana producing territories, “is at the very heart of the EU’s policy.” He also assured that the EU will continue its support to the banana sector.
Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, and Member of Parliament for Central St. Mary, where Esher is located, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, said the farmers’ achievements are commendable.
He underscored the administration’s commitment to rural development, particularly through agriculture and pointed out that the project’s outputs are indicative of the sector’s viability for substantial income generation.
“I hope that even though this programme has come to an end, that you (farmers) will continue to improve on what you have learnt and continue to improve on your agricultural practices,” Dr. Guy said.
Two of the beneficiaries, Bridgette Russell and Jeffery Campbell from Esher, expressed gratitude on behalf of their colleagues, for the stakeholders’ interventions.
Ms. Russell described the project as a “wonderful opportunity” that has served to enhance the welfare of the farmers, their families and the wider community.
“It has been a success. We appreciate all that you have done and we will continue to do our best in our endeavours,” Ms. Russell said.
Mr. Campbell said news of the planned project implementation generated a sense of great anticipation and expectation among the targeted beneficiaries. He described it as a welcomed intervention for the community, on which they would expand.
CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH