Regional

Manchester farmers graduate from agro-business programme

By Alicia Sutherland Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 28, 2014    

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CHUDLEIGH, Manchester — One hundred and sixty-nine registered farmers in Manchester were recent graduates of a four-month Agro-Business Technical Assistance Programme.

Selected from the North East Manchester communities of Green Bottom, Long Coffee, Bottom Coleyville, and Contrivance, the farmers were exposed to the Food Safety Modernisation Act, safe use of pesticides, agricultural business management, agricultural disaster management, linkages to micro financing. They also had sensitisation sessions with the police as it relates to praedial larceny.

The "multi-parish" project organised through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) cost $6.92 million.

Other beneficiary communities included Bottom Bonnett and China Street in St Catherine, Mount Vernon and Bonny Gate in St Mary, Hayfield and Richmond Gap in St Thomas, Brandon Hill in St Andrew, and Top Quarter in Clarendon.

General Manager of Project Management at JSIF Loy Malcolm told the graduation at Grace Apostolic Church in Green Bottom that overall, 468 farmers have directly benefitted.

She said that the Jamaican Government, through the JSIF and with support from the Caribbean Development Bank, has invested in excess of $70 million in and around Manchester under the programme for the repair of roads.

Malcolm said that it is not sufficient to just plead with farmers to continue the work in the fields and as such support is necessary to ensure the quality and volume of the product that gets to market.

"No longer is farming just something that you do in the back of your yards. It's a business... Jamaica Social Investment Fund sees (itself) no longer just geared towards poverty reduction. We are now in the business of wealth creation and you the farmers are a significant part of that wealth creation," she said.

Dermon Spence, chief technical director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, said that Jamaica cannot talk about a sustainable economy without being sufficiently able to feed itself and as such agriculture has to be the way forward.

"If we are to excel as a country we have to grow significantly more than we are doing now. Indeed, the growth of our economy relies heavily on us growing agriculture by increasing our production and productivity and going for increased exports in both traditional and non-traditional sectors," he said.

Malcolm, however, urged the graduates to share their knowledge with other farmers in their communities.

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