Twenty-nine residents of the Tawes Meadows community in St. Catherine have been equipped with the requisite skills to become self-reliant in agricultural production.
They were trained by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in chicken rearing, animal husbandry, bee keeping and cash crop farming over a four-week period as part of the agricultural sub-component of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) Mediation and Conflict Resolution Package III programme.
A total of 51 residents participated in the behavioural change programme, but only 29 were able to successfully complete the 12-month course, which culminated with a graduation ceremony on Wednesday (November 21) at the Caymanas Golf and Country Club. The others will have the opportunity to continue the programme.
The objective of the initiative was to empower persons to achieve sustainable personal growth and contribute to community development, through behaviour modification, inculcation of life skills, and the provision of the educational, economic and other resources.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Managing Director of JSIF, Scarlette Gillings, noted that the agency, in recent years, has been responding to the call from communities to invest in the development of human capacity through skills training and the development of micro enterprises.
“In Tawes Meadows, we are aware that high unemployment and low income levels have prevailed over time, and many now find it increasingly difficult to provide for themselves and their families,” she said, adding that the agricultural initiative was a strategic choice in this regard.
State Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Ian Hayles, for his part, praised the first graduating class of the programme, noting that he was pleased with this positive result from an inner-city community that has had some challenges.
Member of Parliament for St. Catherine Central, Olivia Grange, who provided $106,850 towards the initiative, congratulated the graduates, noting that she felt proud.
Miss Grange said she was pleased that the other participants, who did not graduate will continue to be part of the programme.
The cost of the agricultural component of the programme was $2.5 million with the community contributing $60,000 of that figure.
RADA donated 350 chickens and other livestock, agricultural tools and supplies valued at $160,000. Food for the Poor also partnered in the initiative providing technical support as well as agricultural equipment, supplies and planting equipment valued at $450,000.