FARMERS EXPRESS APPRECIATION: Beneficiary farmers, Bridgette Russell and Jeffery Campbell express appreciation to Food For The Poor, the European Union Banana Support Programme(EUBSP) and Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for the skills and income-generating activities they have gained, as a result of the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes. They were speaking at the Closing Ceremony for the Programme on Thursday, May 16 at Esher Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. Mary. Sharing in the event were (from right): Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, Member of Parliament for Central St. Mary and Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Housing; Hon. Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture; Jacqueline Johnson, Executive Director, Food For The Poor Jamaica; Thomas Opperer, Head, Rural Development and Infrastructure, European Union Delegation; Shaun Baugh, Director of Corporate Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation/RADA-EUBSP Coordinator; Howard O'Hara (partially hidden), RADA Parish Manager, St. Mary; and Pierre Dawson, Rural Development Officer, EUBSP.
Esher, St. Mary – May 16, 2013: The FFPJ-EU Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes in eastern Jamaica, officially ended today, but the yields of the farmers are continuing and some are already making plans for expansion. This was announced at today's Closing Ceremony of the Programme at the Esher Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. Mary.
FFP Jamaica Executive Director Jackie Johnson pointed to the hike in demand for scotch bonnet peppers, which has significantly benefited the farmers. "Our FFP Agricultural team tells me that there has been an increase in demand locally and nationally for scotch bonnet peppers, and therefore that is a very viable area of expansion for many of the beneficiary farmers," said Mrs. Johnson. The FFPJ Executive Director explained that although Hurricane Sandy destroyed approximately 85 percent of the pepper plants, "the recipient farmers were still able to make good returns on the reduced crop due to an increase in demand." She announced that already, the farmers have reaped significant yields of over 60,000 pounds of scotch bonnet peppers, 54 gallons of honey and 34 newborn goats. The honey and peppers reaped have a total estimated value of J$ 6.14 Million.
Under the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes 40 small farmers in the traditional banana producing areas of Esher St. Mary and Somerset St. Thomas were provided with the materials, training and technical support necessary to engage in the sustainable production of scotch bonnet peppers, goats and honey.
The Programme was financed by the European Union and implemented by Food For The Poor (FFP). The Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) and European Union Banana Support Programme (EUBSP) were the contracting authority. The Ministry of Agriculture was a supporting partner.
RECIPIENT FARMERS SERVE AS INSPIRATION
Partner organizations were commended for their collaboration with FFPJ which has caused the transformation of many lives in eastern Jamaica. Citizens were urged to encourage the youth to see agriculture as a lifestyle and or a viable career path. Mrs Johnson urged parents to get their children engaged in backyard gardens in their leisure time. She continued, "Whether or not a school has a 4H Club, the time has come for parents, teachers and students to collaborate in creating and maintaining school gardens and sharing the produce and profits from those gardens. This move will not only generate income for communities, but get us all 'growing what we eat, and eating what we grow' on a wider scale," said Mrs. Johnson.
Ron Burgess, Senior Director – Recipient Services, FFP, who was the Master of Ceremonies, had high praises for the project and the partnerships formed: "It was a great pleasure partnering with the European Union on this venture and I am very happy and delighted with the results and the transformation it brought to many Jamaican lives."
IMPROVING EFFICIENCY IN AGRICULTURE
Commending the European Union on its initiative to fund the Economic Diversification Programme, Hon. Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture who was the Keynote Speaker announced that the project was funded to the tune of J $30 million. "The EU has contributed so much to the growth and development of our country," remarked Minister Clarke.
Congratulating the beneficiary farmers for the success of the Programme, Minister Clarke urged them to impart to their fellow farmers and community members, the knowledge and skills they have acquired through the Programme. He called on the farmers of eastern Jamaica and the island in general to make efficiency in production, be a hallmark of their operations. "Efficiency must be the order of the day…and this will allow you to improve your yields, as it is only with efficiency that you can compete with things (food) coming from abroad."
He underscored the importance of the island significantly reducing its importation of food by engaging in more agriculture to suit the needs of consumers. "We only produce 14% to 15% of the goat meat we eat in Jamaica, so that is an area of development which our farmers need to get more involved in."
EUBSP DELIGHTED OVER ACHIEVEMENTS
The European Union and the EUBSP have expressed delight about the dynamic and effective partnership between itself, FFP and RADA, which led to the successful implementation of the Programme.
Thomas Opperer, Head, Rural Development and Infrastructure, European Union Delegation, has expressed the commitment of his organization to continue to assist with the development of agriculture in Jamaica, especially to the needs of the small farmers. He reiterated, "Support to Agriculture is at the heart of the EU project. We try to link markets better to the farmers and farmers to markets."
Mr. Opperer told the audience that since 1996, the EU has invested over J$ 4 billion in projects ranging from infrastructure development, economic empowerment, agricultural technology transfer, skills training and capacity building.
Shaun Baugh, Director of Corporate Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation/ RADA EUBSP Coordinator who was one of the Speakers at today's Closing Ceremony asserted: "RADA through the EUBSP would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our partner, FFP on successfully implementing the economic diversification and employment creation in the traditional banana producing parishes."
He explained that by assisting farmers displaced by the decline in the banana industry in eastern Jamaica and other parishes, RADA/EUBSP supported agricultural and non-agricultural enterprises, as well as other rural development activities.
MAJOR BENEFITS TO FARMERS
The major achievements of the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes are as follows:
Ø Education of farmers in best practices in agriculture
Ø Income generation opportunities through the production of new crops and the rearing of livestock
Ø Increase in the profitability of farmers
Ø Provision of guidelines on post-harvesting and marketing of farm products
Ø The establishment of Farmers' Associations
Ø Implementation of marketing strategies for farmers in Somerset and Esher.
FARMERS SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES
Omar Morris, farmer in Esher St. Mary for over 10 years is extremely satisfied at the benefits he has derived from the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes. Guests at the Closing Ceremony were treated to a tour of Mr. Morris' farm. Speaking in an interview, he related that the Programme has introduced him to the production of honey and pepper, and he is committed to continue on this new path in farming.
"It has really helped me a lot. I use to grow pineapple and plantain, but I never tried growing pepper until the EU-FFP Project. I really like these new things in farming and I will continue to produce them," emphasized Mr. Morris. He credits the Economic Diversification Programme for providing him with planting material, fertilizer, pesticides, goats and the establishment of an irrigation system for his farm. Even though Hurricane Sandy destroyed most of his crops, he is committed to continue farming. "I lost all my peppers during Hurricane Sandy, but Food For The Poor gave me back some pepper suckers and I replanted my peppers some 5 months ago. I really am enjoying farming and I will continue to farm," shared Mr. Morris. "I think the Programme has improved the income for me and the other farmers in Esher."
Outlining the benefits which he and his community have derived from the programme, Orville Wright, beneficiary farmer in Somerset, said, "It has impacted the community in a positive way." Mr. Wright explained that other members of the community who are not beneficiary farmers have also benefited, as they work along with the 20 beneficiaries in the area. "It's an excellent programme, and the farmers are grateful for this investment. Even now, beneficiaries are still excited."
Among the speakers at the Closing Ceremony were: Howard O'Hara, RADA Parish Manager, St. Mary; Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, Member of Parliament for Central St. Mary and Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing; and recipient farmers – Jeffery Campbell and Bridgette Russell.About EU Banana Support Programme
The EUBSP promotes sustainable development in banana growing areas of Jamaica. Since its inception, it has been investing in the banana parishes of St. James, Clarendon, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Portland and St. Mary in an effort to maintain living standards and social and economic development. The primary beneficiaries are displaced banana farmers, farm workers, port workers and their families and by extension the communities.About Food For The Poor
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
Erica James-King, PROComm, T: 926-6740 or 564-5277
Petri-Ann Henry, Food For The Poor, T: 984-5005 or 564-2886