MANDEVILLE, Manchester — For the past six years, women in five communities in this south-central parish have benefited from agricultural projects organised by the Women of Manchester community group.
The projects, which are aimed at creating a higher standard of living for its beneficiaries, have been instrumental in the communities of Mizpah, Greenpond, Somerset, George's Valley and Richmond.
“Those are the five communities in which we are working with groups of women,” said Myrna Bailey, president of the Women of Manchester community group.
The group – which was formed in 2017 by mostly retired social workers, teachers, and other professionals – recently hosted French Ambassador to Jamaica Olivier Guyonvarch at one its project sites in Mizpah.
Bailey explained that the group received a shade house from Food for the Poor Jamaica to plant crops such as onions, green peppers and cabbage.
She added that assistance has also come from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“Presently, we have seeds from RADA and we are embarking on a new project at Mizpah with strawberries and RADA has supplied drip hoses for watering and a thousand-gallon drum. The women are currently planting,” said Bailey.
She explained that the group is now “reviving” the project to incorporate more women.
“We had at one time over 30 women. It has dwindled in size and gone back and forth. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Then we had the pandemic, when there was hardly anything happening, so we are trying to revive it now, even though we are still in the pandemic.
“Because of the pandemic, the women were not available to do the watering and the planting, because they had to be home with the children, supervising them, because they had to be online,” noted Bailey.
She added: “Now, since there are more face-to-face [classes], the women are more available, so now we have a group of women right now, about 10, who are involved in the planting and the watering, with assistance from Leon Samms (coordinator).”
She said Samms “is guiding the women into the actual planting and nurturing” so that they can do “a little planting to supplement their income”.
According to Bailey, following the hosting of the French ambassador at the Mizpah location, there is hope that more assistance is coming for the group.
“He expressed a desire to meet with us, because he heard of what we were doing and the idea of hosting him was to see whatever assistance we could get through the French Embassy and ultimately through the European Union in terms of funding,” she said.
The group has also received support from the Trees That Feed Foundation, which has helped to distribute more than 300 trees – ackee, breadfruit, otaheite apple, nasberry, soursop, june plum – to the five communities.