Prisoners get lessons in greenhouse farming

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

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CARIBBEAN Cement Company Limited on Monday handed over a greenhouse farm project to the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre to further boost the rehabilitation process at the Spanish Town, St Catherine, facility.

The project, which was funded to the tune of $2.5 million, began in November 2016 and is expected to continue as a means of preparing inmates to re-enter society.


It was designed to: expose inmates to training in modern agricultural techniques; engage them in activities which can contribute to their empowerment and lead to future employment, entrepreneurship, reduce crime and foster community cohesion; provide a sustainable, income-generating venture; increase food self-sufficiency to supplement inmates’s diet; and provide a sustainable project to strengthen the rehabilitation programmes of The Department of Correctional Services.


Twenty correctional officers, one agriculture instructor, and 10 inmates received formal and practical training as part of efforts to achieve sustainability of the project.


The inmates were selected on the basis that they exhibited keen interest in agriculture and would be fully committed to the project, had fewer than eight months to complete their sentences, and were able to read and write. These criteria are expected to guide the selection process as the project continues.


The project, correctional officer Linton Campbell told the Jamaica Observer, utilises best practices in hydroponics farming (method of growing plants without soil) and is expected to produce organic vegetables — cabbage, cucumber, oak and romaine lettuce, pak choi, and tomato — of 1,500 square ft.


He said that produce will also be sold and the profit used to open an account where inmates who have completed their sentences can access funds to start their own farms.


Minister of state in the Ministry of National Security, with direct responsibility for the Department of Correctional Services, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, described the project as the beginning of "food security".


He said, this year Jamaica must look towards becoming a country that understands, appreciates and implements projects related to sustainable development.


"As simple as it is, this project not only presents an opportunity for our brothers to learn cutting edge, emerging trade, and for them to work and collaborate with the correctional officers and the staff in a way that will engender the kind of spirit that we need in the facilities, but it is also an opportunity for our country to take grasp and hold on to the wind of sustainable development and innovation, and food security. This is what productivity is," he told the handover ceremony.


The farm is expected to produce cabbage every eight weeks at a yield per crop rotation of 600 pounds; cucumber every six weeks at 2,400 pounds; lettuce every six weeks at 400 pounds; pak choi every six weeks at 400 pounds; and tomato every 12 weeks at 1,200 pounds.


In the meantime, Charles lauded superintendents at the facility whom he said were doing "a good" job with the rehabilitation of inmates. He urged them to continue in an effort to make the Department of Correctional Services become the premier example of efficiency.


— Kimone Francis


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