KINGSTON — The Spanish Government has donated some $30 million to establish a regional Centre for Excellence in Advanced Technology for Agriculture (CEATA).
This was announced by Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mara Celsa Nuño, at the opening ceremony of the Caricom/Spain Technical Co-operation Programme for the Training of Greenhouse Technicians, at the Agriculture Ministry, Kingston on Tuesday September 20.
Ambassador Nuño observed that Spain has a long tradition of using advanced technologies in agriculture and, as a result, has attained an international reputation for the quality of its products.
She explained that Spain has provided funding for the training programme through its Agency for International Development Co-operation (AECID), as part of a wider partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The facility will be located in Jamaica, and will help to establish and direct the research and training agendas, in keeping with the priorities of the agricultural sector. It will also serve CARICOM states, through aprogramme for training greenhouse technicians, and the use of the technology to enhance productivity and quality, while enabling farmers to manage their crops and reduce exposure to the vagaries of the weather and seasonality.
In addition to the seminars, two hi-tech greenhouses, donated by Spain, will be erected in Manchester and St. Elizabeth, to enhance the applied research capabilities of the Caribbean research community.
Welcoming the development, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, observed that the agricultural sector plays an important role in the Jamaican economy and the wider Caribbean. However, he lamented that the sector has been plagued by low production and productivity, and needed greater coordination of its research and training agendas.
He said in an attempt to address these challenges, the Ministry sought and received a positive response from the Government of Spain, to establish a ‘Demonstration and Training Centre for High Yield Crops and Training in Advanced Fruit and Vegetable Production Technology.’ It later became known as the Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technology in Agriculture (CEATA).
The principal objectives of the Centre are to: define the agricultural research agenda; to link the critical entities engaged in agricultural research; and to develop a practical model, in order to provide efficient training for Extension Officers to ensure the transfer of the research findings to farmers in the field.
Mr. Montague said although the Centre is located in Jamaica, it is intended to serve the region, as the entire region is challenged to boost agricultural productivity and competitiveness. He also stated that it must address the challenges faced by the farmers in meeting market demands.
Mr. Montague said for too long, the approach to research has been disconnected from the practical challenges faced by farmers. Tertiary institutions do tremendous work in agriculture, however, much of the research findings reside within the realms of academia and the Ministry’s Library.
“As a result, there is little practical application to assist farmers in the field to improve their methods of production. We are hoping to change this, and today’s opening ceremony of the Caricom/Spain Technical Co-operation Programme for the Training of Greenhouse Technicians is a step in that direction,” he observed.
The technical co-operation ‘training of trainer’ programme will continue with a three-week workshop, during which technical specialists from the region involved in greenhouse production will converge at the Mandeville Hotel, Manchester, to engage in 18 days of intense instruction. This will involve classroom and field work, exchanging ideas on best practises relating to “protected agriculture” to be disseminated to farmers within their respective countries.
The training will be provided by consultants from the Spanish Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries (IRTA), which specializes in research and training.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter