SRC, OAS help young farmers
Farmers from four parishes can now contribute more to their communities' economic welfare, after receiving equipment, recipes and manuals from the Scientific Research Council (SRC) on Thursday.
More sustainable earning options are available with the provision of the tools, reducing unemployment among youth in rural areas, said the SRC.
The government agency, through its Rural Youth Employment Project (RUYE), partnered with the Organisation of American States (OAS) to fund the initiative.
The OAS provided over US$51,000 ($4.6 million) to train the four groups of farmers - from St Thomas, Manchester, Trelawny and St Ann - in improving product quality and consistency; developing new products; and improving packaging and labeling.
As part of its mandate, the SRC coordinates research, primarily to support the growth and development of Jamaica's agro-industrial sector and provides training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs.
The OAS' Rural Youth Capacity Building and Business Development Project has a similar aim, helping rural agro-processors to increase their capabilities in the areas of marketing and sales, good manufacturing practices and business development.
"[Because of the perfect fit] we requested the support of the OAS to help the groups develop their businesses," the SRC said.
However, the SRC announced the project would end in December.
"Some aspects will continue," said Roselyn Fisher, general manager of SRC subsidiary, Marketech.
"We are working with a number of individuals on a number of projects so those will go on," Fisher said.
But funding from the OAS covers the RUYE up until the end of the year, she aded.
"We may have to re-engage the OAS," Fisher said. "But for us, these initiatives are not one-off. Funding is available from various organisations from time to time, it's just for people to know when."
Government has over the years stepped up its efforts to attract young people to agriculture and alleviate the island's burdensome food import bill, some US$800 million annually.
"Farming is the only sector in the country that can create the fastest level of employment and can make a significant dent in our balance of trade," Junior Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Ian Hayles, said recently to a group of students.
"We need to hire more young people so that they can get more involved in the business aspect of farming and further cut the balance of trade that we have with other countries."