Women continue to come together and pool resources to establish cottage industries and other worthwhile projects, to empower themselves and forge ahead in the male-dominated business world.
One such profitable venture is the new improved Flower Hill Producers Co-operative Society Limited, located in Flower Hill, St. James, which is involved in the production of bammies for the local and export markets.
Starting out as the Flower Hill Cottage Industry in 1984, the project has seen steady expansion, moving from 10 employees to over 20 currently, and realising an average turn-over of approximately $8.4 million per year, up from the regular $2.5 million.
Manager of the Flower Hill Producers Co-operative Society bammy factory, Ms. Edna Edwards (left), addresses some of the workers.
With much emphasis being placed on cassava and its by-products by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as an important and nutritious food item in Jamaica, the demand for bammy within the growing hotel sector, in supermarkets across the country and attractive markets abroad has increased tremendously over the past five years.
Manager of the Flower Hill project, Ms. Edna Edwards, tells JIS News that the project now boasts some 215 farmers from across western Jamaica who plant cassava to support and maintain the factory.
“The factory, which was recently expanded with assistance from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) at a cost of $6.8 million, utilises approximately 7,000 pounds of cassava each week, depending on the availability of the raw material. The demand for bammies is very high within the local and overseas markets. We received calls from as far as Switzerland for orders last year,” she said.
A worker prepares to package the finished bammy at the Flower Hill Producers Co-operative Society bammy factory, in Flower Hill, St. James.
“I feel real good when these prospective buyers tell me that they have seen the bammies on the shelves there and approve of the packaging as well as the taste,” Ms. Edwards adds.
She tells JIS News that the factory produces four types of bammies, which are in great demand. These are the regular, the roll, the mini or the cocktail, and the stick. These are very popular in hotels, supermarkets and also in the overseas market.
She speaks glowingly about the positive impact that the project has had on the Flower Hill community as well as on surrounding areas, providing employment for a number of community members and an outlet through which the farmers in western Jamaica can sell their produce without much hassle.
“Most of our cassava are sourced from Trelawny, but other parishes such as St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth provide us with steady supplies. Sometimes we have to go as far as St. Ann to purchase the product because at times it becomes a little scarce. We are in discussion with our suppliers as well as new farmers to encourage them to step up their production, because the demand for the finished product is getting greater,” Ms. Edwards informs.
The bammy project has seen welcomed levels of expansion over the years, with the venture outgrowing its facility. Negotiations quickly commenced between the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) for infrastructural expansion at the plant, with the objective of creating greater employment opportunities for community members and enhancing production to satisfy the rapidly growing demands.
Chairman of the Board for the Flower Hill Producers Co-operative Society Limited, Mr. Stanley Wright, tells JIS News that the timely intervention of RADA and JSIF saw the plant moving from one stove to four stoves, more refrigerators, new bathrooms, cooling racks and sealing machines, among others.
“Expansion of the facility has made it possible for us to achieve our long-term goal of being a viable and attractive business entity. We are now able to meet the demands of the expanding market as production has gone up significantly. More persons from the community have been employed to the project and more farmers have been given the opportunity to market their produce. Another plus of the expansion is that a number of our young people have been exposed to higher levels of training to make themselves more marketable in this global environment,” Mr. Wright tells JIS News.
“We are very optimistic of the future of this project and we are continuing our efforts to encourage more farmers to buy into the programme by increasing their production of cassava to mitigate against possible shortage of the product,” he added.
With the venture becoming a member of the co-operative society, RADA now plays an advisory role in the project and does so consistently, as according to Social Services Manager at RADA’s Home Economics Department, Ms. Jennifer Williams, the project has great potential.
“The project has the potential to move further and achieve its economic objectives, with greater outlook and more aggressive marketing strategies from Board members and empowerment at the project leadership level,” Ms Edwards tells JIS News.
Workers in the enterprise, including Manager, Ms. Edna Edwards; Production Supervisor, Ms. Sharon Bates; Chief Sales Representative, Ms. Lorna Warren, concur that the project has been a “blessing” for them and the community.