THE first shipment of bananas from Jamaica to England was exported from the Old Morant Wharf near the Port Morant community in St Thomas.
As such, the Port Morant Community Development Commission (CDC) in an effort to preserve the parish's heritage is seeking to host events that demonstrate the cultural aspect of the parish, one being a Banana Festival.
President of the Port Morant CDC Pansy Murphy said the concept for the festival came about last year when her group hosted a heritage celebration and decided they wanted to focus on agro-processing.
"The Port Morant CDC wants to bring back the cultural aspect to the community because the harmony and unity the community once had is slipping. This part of St Thomas has a lot of bananas and much can be done with them to bring out the creativity of our community members so we decided to do the festival," Murphy said.
The festival, which will take place on October 21, will seek to display community members' creativity and food preparation skills through the versatile use of bananas.
Murphy said the main aim is to gain islandwide attention for Jamaicans to explore other options of product development for possible export to help build the economy.
"I want this festival to impact Jamaica and let them realise what we can do with our own banana and other fruits. It pains my heart to see us import banana but that was understandable; however, since the crop has started to come back into full bloom I hope this festival can open our eyes to how much we can do with our crop," she said.
Murphy added that apart from the well known banana chips, the produce, whether ripe or green, can be used to make a variety of products such as drinks, liqueurs, wine, cakes, rums, muffins, jams, and banana bread, just to name a few.
The festival will also highlight seven districts within close range of Port Morant and will also feature a cross-country run and a cultural item. This will see members of the various districts giving a presentation on the national heroes.
Murphy said the festival will also include trips to various heritage sites by way of an intriguing mode of transportation.
"The trips to the various heritage sites will be done using a donkey cart as this is very much a part of our history. We will visit the Old Wharf as many people don't know where it is. We will also have presentations on the sports heroes from St Thomas such as Jermaine Hue, Juliet Cuthbert and Hansle Parchment," she said.
The event will also feature a gospel concert during the day and a secular event later that night.
Murphy and her team, however, said that funding is not always easy but they will be utilising the funds they won from a Digicel-sponsored Best Kept Community competition, which was won by Port Morant.
Murphy said the CDC is a non-profit organisation and as such they try to prevent political conflict within their circles.
"If we allow politics to creep in then the CDC and community-based initiatives will not stay. We stick to what we know and that is a non-political approach. Though the CDC is a non-profit organisation we do seek sponsorship to have our community events," Murphy said.
She further explained that other plans for community development include an agriculture project to focus on bee farming.
The Banana Festival which will be judged by representatives from the Rural Agricultural Development Aguthority aims to expand the banana processing industry in St Thomas and offer possible ways to further capitalise on the produce.