First Look

Food for the poor & European union banana support programme launch small farmers project



PROComm | 2012-06-22 11:59:00

Food For The Poor (FFP) in collaboration with the European Union Banana Support Programme (EUBSP) today launched the Economic Diversification Programme For Banana Producing Parishes, which seeks to provide alternative income-generating opportunities for small farmers, who traditionally cultivated bananas.

The Launch took place at the Church of God of Prophesy, Somerset, St. Thomas. The Programme has a sixteen-month duration, and will provide forty small farmers in the traditional banana producing areas of Somerset, St. Thomas and Esher, St. Mary, with the materials, training and technical support necessary to engage in sustainable production of scotch bonnet peppers, goats and bees/honey.  Most of the farmers participating in the project occupy holdings, which are between 0.4 hectares to 2.4 hectares.

The Programme is being financed by the European Union through the EUBSP, and implemented by Food For The Poor. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has the oversight for the Programme, while the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) assists with the implementation.
 
Delivering Remarks at the Launch, Andrew Mahfood, Chairman, Food For The Poor, announced that his charity started the Project, with the aim of assisting small banana farmers who are suffering from “a dramatic downturn in the volume of production and exports of bananas, due mainly to falling prices on the world market, the non-competitiveness of Jamaica’s banana exports on the European market and the negative effects of natural disasters.”

Mr. Mahfood outlined some features of the Programme, “Through the imparting of knowledge and skills by our Agriculturalists and the RADA Extension officers, this Programme is creating a springboard for small farmers to benefit from new income-generating opportunities and increased profitability. This is consistent with FFP’s philosophy of encouraging sustainable development projects.”


He also disclosed that FFP is providing small farmers with guidelines on post-harvesting and marketing of farm produce as well as assisting them with the establishment of Farmers’ Associations.
The FFP Chairman encouraged the recipient farmers and farmers’ islandwide to be focused and persistent in identifying and successfully pursuing market opportunities on the local and international scenes.  “I challenge our farmers and all Jamaicans to get on and stay on the path of increasing productivity and remaining internationally competitive, by maximizing the opportunities, which are available to you,” stated Mr. Mahfood. “When you find a niche where your goods and services are needed, research, work and create ways in which you can be bold and different.”


Agriculture Minister Hon. Roger Clarke who was the Keynote Speaker,  commended the Economic Diversification Programme For Banana Producing Parishes, as a timely initiative. He said it comes at a time when the Ministry is engaging in renewed efforts to encourage farmers to return to increased agricultural production. The Agricultural Minister stated that the introduction of new agricultural opportunities through the EUBSP and FFP partnership will “create new life in these rural communities and encourage rural development.”


Minister Clarke mentioned that goat rearing was particularly welcomed at this time, as Jamaica “is only producing 14% of the needs of the island’s goat-meat consumer market.” He urged the beneficiary farmers to play an active part in helping to fill the needs of the goat-meat sector.


Mr. Clarke also announced that through a public-private partnership programme his Ministry will be re-engaging banana farmers to “return idle fields into production, while at the same time satisfying the demand of agro-processors and consumers.”

In addressing participants at the Launch, Jesus Orus Baguena, Head of Operations, European Union Delegation, expressed his organization’s commitment to the Economic Diversification Programme For Banana Producing Parishes. He urged farmers to see the Programme as an ideal way of “engaging in a paradigm shift”, while repositioning the small farming sector. He says the Programme is a great chance for learning opportunities and new access to markets for the farmers.

Another Speaker, Caswell Glover, RADA Parish Manager, St. Thomas, encouraged farmers to take the production process to another level, by “exploring value-added opportunities”.  He recommended that agro-processing, utilising the scotch bonnet peppers and honey for a variety of products including pepper sauces, jerk seasoning and honey cakes, could significantly increase the profitability of the beneficiaries.

Recipient farmers from both Esher and Somerset were in attendance at the Launch. Speaking on behalf of the recipient farmers, Orville Wright of Somerset, expressed appreciation to the EU, FFP and RADA. He pointed out that the Programme has not only generated income for them, but has greatly improved their knowledge and skills levels. “I want to let you know how much we all appreciate it,” declared an emotional Mr. Wright, as tears of joy streamed down his face.  

He said even the wider community is benefiting from the training sessions for the farmers: “The wider community turn up at the training sessions to learn something and to demonstrate their support for the Programme.”
Pierre Dawson, Rural Development Officer, EUBSP, also participated in Thursday’s Launch. Speaking in an interview, Mr. Dawson endorsed the Economic Diversification Programme For Banana Producing Parishes, describing it as a welcome project in generating alternative livelihood for farmers, especially those who were affected by the closure of the Eastern Banana Boxing Plant. He believes the Programme has “already started to do a good job in introducing new technologies, agronomic practices and skills-sets to the beneficiaries.”

Mr. Dawson indicated that the Programme has “attracted ‘buy-in’ from the farmers and targeted communities”, and this feedback is an important factor in ensuring the sustainability of the production of the new crops and livestock, even after the Project comes to an end.

Among other participants at today’s launch were representatives of the Social Development Commission who are stakeholders in the agricultural Programme, Charles Stewart, who brought greetings on behalf of Member of Parliament for Western St. Thomas James Robertson; and Mayor of Morant Bay Her Worship Councillor Marsha Francis.


Food For The Poor (FFP)-Jamaica is the largest charity organization in the country.  Food For The Poor Inc., located in Florida, USA, was named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the United States. It is an interdenominational Christian agency that does much more than feed the millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. FFP provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96% of all donations going directly to programmes that help the poor. For more information visit our Web site at www.foodforthepoorja.com
 




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