Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has commended the latest batch of United States (US) Peace Corps volunteers, who have come to serve across the country.
“We are very pleased that on this occasion the volunteers will be focussing on Health (HIV/AIDS), Youth and the Environment, including Agriculture. These are among the Government’s top priorities and areas of focus, as we seek to build human capacity, while transforming and growing the Jamaican economy,” he said.
The Minister was speaking at the swearing-in ceremony for 49 volunteers, at the US Embassy in Kingston, on August 28.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that the expertise and training of the volunteers, would have a positive impact on the areas to which they have been assigned.
The Minister said he was particularly pleased that some of the volunteers would be assigned to the various environmental and agricultural related activities, including the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“The extension service is very critical in enhancing agriculture and improving the standard of living of farmers and by extension rural communities,” he said, adding that the sector lacked the human resources to assist the over 200,000 Jamaican farmers, as currently, the sector has one Extension Officer serving 1,500 farmers.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), addresses the audience at the swearing-in ceremony for United States (US) Peace Corps Volunteers, at the US Embassy in Kingston on August 28. The volunteers will work to build capacity in several areas of development, including HIV/AIDS prevention, youth development, information technology and environmental health, across the island.
He argued that the extension effort would get a significant boost from the Peace Corps volunteers, whose knowledge did not cover just the “core agriculture,” but also business, management, marketing and the environment.
“While you see yourselves as Ambassadors, you should also accept that you have the potential to add tremendous value by improving production and the productivity level within the sector,” he said.
Dr. Tufton also noted that the exchange is an opportunity for cultural interaction and to learn from each other.
“I am sure that as these volunteers work across the island, they will be able to positively impact the lives of people. And their stay will have a lasting impression,” he said.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Brenda LaGrange Johnson, in her remarks, noted that the volunteers serve as a reminder of the highly valued relationship between the two countries. She also thanked the volunteers for the contribution they would make while working in Jamaica.
The volunteers, who will spend two years in Jamaica, have successfully completed eight weeks of training, and are versed in the Jamaican culture, including language, food and mode of transportation.
The US Peace Corps was established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy and involves American men and women of all ages and ethnic groups. Since its inception, more than 182,000 persons have served as volunteers in 138 countries around the world. In 1962, Jamaica was among eight countries to receive volunteers and the first group of 36 men and women arrived in June. Since then, more than 3,350 Peace Corps and Crisis Corps volunteers have served in Jamaica.