Introducing 'The Family Garden'

Thursday, April 17, 2014    

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THE model of Jamaica's first solar-powered hydroponic farm is to be replicated in urban areas across Jamaica to create more job opportunities and enrich communities.

Work has already begun using the model of the award-winning "The Family Garden" project, which has introduced sustainable farming practices, provided more than 40 jobs and a reliable electricity supply in Jack's Hills, St Andrew.

That project was one of eight selected from a pool of 189 proposals and named winners of the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation Contest. The contest is sponsored by UKAid from the Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by GVEP International (Global Village Energy Partnership) -- a non-profit organisation that works to increase access to modern energy and reduce poverty in developing countries.

Launched in 2009, 'IDEAS' is a contest designed to support the development of innovative ideas promoting renewable energies and improving energy efficiency throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It provided grant funding, technical and business development support to turn winning ideas into financially sustainable businesses, helping to solve the energy problems facing the countries.

Describing The Family Garden as "a successful business model which will continue to develop and give much needed opportunity to other Caribbean communities", Leighton Waterman, GVEP country manager, said, "we are in the process of creating a new business plan that will extend past both GVEP and UKAid intervention."

The Trench Town project is using a new business model suited to the larger more urban area, since Trench Town's population is denser and double that of Jack's Hill. The implementation and management of the business will reflect the positive components of the Jacks Hill farm as well as benefiting from modifications on areas that were less successful.

A significant change will be seen in the management of farmers as it was noted that a better more rigorous selection process is required to ensure capable and trustworthy staff are hired, so as to cut out inefficiency and time-wasting. Another important change is that seedlings will be sold to the Agency for Inner city Renewal rather than being provided free of charge, as was the case in Jacks Hill. This will generate more income for the business which can then be used to invest in new equipment.

According to Luke Jessop, climate change programme officer at DFID, "improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy sources will help to secure the Caribbean's energy supply, reduce prices and improve the way markets operate in the region."

"We are hoping to encourage new innovations in the use of renewable forms of energy in the Caribbean, to help communities become less dependent on expensive imported fossil fuels," he added.

The new technologies being used in The Family Garden project are moving farmers away from "slash and burn methods of clearing land for farming, which often leads to soil erosion, flooding and land slippage and destruction of potential farming plots."

Family Garden founder Rebecca Harper is elated at the achievements to date.

"We have been overwhelmed by the success of the enterprise and the impact it has had on the community. We now have standing orders with four hotels and eight restaurants as well as supplying eighteen supermarkets with our produce. It's great to see the business taking off," she remarked.

The Family Garden in Jack's Hill supplies a range of herbs and collards, including kale, swiss chard, arugula, basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary and chives.





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