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Thirty residents of Spanish Town and Portmore received gardening kits at the official launch of the urban backyard garden programme held yesterday(June 21) at the Portmore Lions’ Civic Centre, Portmore, St. Catherine.
The initiative, which was announced by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton in his budget presentation, aims to assist householders to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers in small spaces in their communities, in an effort to address the rising cost of basic food items.
After the launch, the Dr. Tufton, Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, and Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley handed out the kits to residents.
Four hundred households in Portmore and Spanish town are expected to receive kits consisting of seeds, soil nutrients, and basic crop care information. The kits are being developed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) which will be monitoring the production process of gardeners over three months.
Residents were also being invited by the Executive Director of RADA, Al Powell to call the RADA offices for technical assistance or to offer any suggestion that they might have to improve the programme.
Mr. Powell informed that an additional 10,000 garden kits will be prepared for sale at some farm stores, and that a similar programme will be rolled out in other parishes.
Before the presentation of kits, Area Extension Officer, RADA, Ruth Barrett, explained the various stages of crop production, from land preparation to the care and reaping of crops.
Speaking at the function, Minister Tufton called on the residents to support local food production in light of the challenges facing other countries in affording basic nutrients for citizens.
“We cannot afford to wait until we reach the stage where we have to confront the crisis in an ad hoc reactionary manner,” he said.
Minister Tufton said that the Government is committed to improving agricultural production and will be looking at a number of systemic challenges facing the agriculture sector, in an effort to boost productivity and production levels.
“That is a medium to long term initiative. It involves looking at our research capabilities. It involves enhancing the training of our farmers. It involves engaging more modern technology and modern methods of soil preparation, of marketing, of animal husbandry of orchard crop production,” he added.
The Agriculture Minister said there are a number of initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry in promoting agriculture. Among these, he said, is the strengthening of the marketing department of the Ministry to deal with the “periods of gluts and shortages” of products on the market.
Additionally, he said, the Ministry is increasing the number of RADA Extension officers so that small farmers can receive the technical support that they require.
“All of these are initiative are what we are pursuing and which we will continue to pursue to manage the market, the challenges the agriculture sector faces and boost production and productivity levels,” he said.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Portmore Municipal Council. There were displays of chemicals, variety of seeds, fruit baskets and local products by private and government entities, such as Agro Grace, Jamaica Livestock Association, RADA, ACE Supercentre and Inter-Trade Finance Limited.