JIS News

Miguel Peart, a farmer in St. Ann, has been planting on bauxite-reclaimed lands in Armadale in the parish for over a year and have found his yields to be of a very high quality.
“On my farm, I plant yam, bananas, cho-cho, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, escallion, ginger and many other things,” he tells JIS News.
“The soil is so rich here on the farm and I have been doing well in terms of marketing the crops that I plant. I am in the process of reaping sweet potatoes and I have been able to reap potatoes that weigh over 15 pounds,” he says.
Clovester Callum, who also farms sweet potato in Armadale, says that the ‘put it quick’ variety, which he cultivates, strives a lot better and grows faster on the reclaimed land. “I am able to reap and sell sweet potatoes every three weeks,” he boasts.
A person cannot afford to waste time when planting the ‘put it quick’ on the reclaimed lands because it grows so fast that it will probably start growing in their hand,” he jokes.
Armadale is among the farming communities in St. Ann, which has been put into agricultural production under the St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners’ land reclamation programme.
So impressive is the programe that the company in 2002, won the Commission of Mines plaque for best restoration practices in the bauxite industry, informs Mine Services Superintendent, Syril Gooden.
He notes that since 2001, over 600 hectares of land have been restored; some for agricultural purposes and some for resettlement purposes.
Approximately 80 hectares of land is mined-out each year by the organization and restoration is done shortly after mining. “Land reclamation comprises all the activities to reshape the land as close as possible to its original contours and to restore it to its highest levels of productivity after mining,” he tells JIS News.
Explaining the reclamation process, he notes that the first stage involves backfilling, where rocks are being excavated and marl is used to fill the holes that are left as a result of the mining activity. This, he says, is done to bring about a “smooth bowl effect” on the surface of the mined-out land.
“The second stage is known as top soiling and this is the process by which top soil is being spread 12 to 18 inches on the surface of the prepared pit so that rehabilitation, which is the final stage, can take place,” he tells JIS News.
Technician in the Rehabilitation Department, Talicia Davis, explains that the process to prepare the land for farming involves ploughing and furrowing and then manure is applied to rebuild the fertility of the soil. “The land, at this stage, is ready for agricultural use and this is where the farmers in the communities play a very important part in the planting of various crops such as corn, pepper, cabbage and sorrel,” she says.
Carnel Henton, Land Reclamation Supervisor, mentions that the farmers benefit greatly from the initiative as the company provides them with all the resources to produce on the lands. “We generally give the farmers the necessary assistance to do the farming. We give them seeds, fertilizers and herbicides as well as any mechanical assistance that they need in the farming process.
“We provide further assistance for the farmers in that we normally fence their plots after their farms have been established. All these provisions are given freely to the farmers and all that we require is their interest in the programme,” he says.
In addition to enabling the development of farmlands, the company also has a resettlement programme where housing is provided for a number of residents.
Resettlement and Development Officer, Richard Lawson informs that one of the goals of St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners is to utilize at least 70 per cent of the reclaimed lands for the purpose of resettlement.
“We are presently putting in the necessary infrastructure at Hyde Park so that persons can be resettled in the near future. We have already constructed three model houses and we are now working on a fourth house. The purpose of this is to allow people to realize that reclaimed lands can also be used to bring about attractive developments and communities,” he says.