JIS News

In its continued efforts to boost the skills and earning capacity of the nation’s unemployed youth, the Scientific Research Council (SRC) has implemented two low cost tissue culture pilot projects in inner city communities in Kingston and in St. Catherine.
The projects are being financed in the amount of $2 million by the Social Development Commission (SDC). The pilot project, under which the participating communities will cultivate bananas began in October, and will include the communities of Burger Gully and McIntyre Villa in East Kingston, and the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre in Spanish Town.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank yesterday (November 10), Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Audia Barnett revealed that the Council’s initial plan was to involve six communities throughout the island.
However due to financial constraints it was agreed that three communities would participate instead.A deciding factor in the final selection of the pilot projects she said was, “their proximity because we can better manage as once we establish there, we can visit”. Providing details about the project, Dr. Barnett explained that the SRC had sought out community groups in the various areas and asked them to “select persons with various criteria, in terms of their educational background (high or technical high school education was a prerequisite), and in terms of persons who will be able to stick through a training exercise and were disciplined”.
The project she informed, was expected to be a three month-training exercise and the participants would receive training at the SRC for the first two months where they would receive both theory and hands on practice in tissue culture.
The Executive Director noted that the participants’ introduction to tissue culture taught them how to replicate the banana plant by cultivating the crop in glove-boxes, which she described as “an airtight box which houses the plants, with two holes through which an individual can tend to the plants with gloved hands”.
Following the growth of the plant in the glove-boxes, she said the crop was then transferred to a greenhouse “for hardening, and getting them acclimatised to the soil, after which they would be ready to be sold to the end user”.
Furthermore, Dr. Barnett said banana was the crop of choice as there was demand for the plant coupled with the fact that the SRC had “much expertise with banana as we have the largest gene bank in terms of bananas”. Regarding follow up after the projects, she informed that the Council had been in contact with the Jamaica Business Development Bank (JBD) as it related to enhancing the entrepreneurial opportunities for the project’s participants so that they could use their skills to make a living. She noted that the JBDC’s input was intended to “assist the business development side of things so they will learn how to operate it like a business because after the gestation period, this is something that they need to make money from”.
Dr. Barnett explained that, “by the end of March, we hope to be through with this first batch, and then hopefully, we can get some more money to do another batch. We will work out all the kinks at this level so we are working closely with these youngsters, who have taken it like a sponge”.
She indicated that other communities had been identified for future projects of a similar nature in the parishes of Clarendon, Westmoreland and St. Thomas.