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A bit of encouraging news on the farming front

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Amidst all the problems affecting this country — crime, violence, corruption, indiscipline, disorder in public spaces, and the lot — we had the privilege of publishing a bit of encouraging news on Monday this week.

We refer to the new programme by INMED Partnerships for Children, which is designed to help smallholder farmers, women, and youth launch aquaponics enterprises in Jamaica.

According to the story, INMED — a non-profit international development organisation — has been working to improve the health, education, safety and opportunities for Jamaica's most vulnerable citizens through adaptive agriculture, school gardening, climate change adaptation, nutrition education, positive youth development, and teacher-training programmes since 2002.

Its latest programme, called Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA), was launched officially last September in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank/Multilateral Investment Fund; Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA); the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE); the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation; and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

The impressive feature of this programme is that it provides technical and business training, access to affordable financing, and links to ready markets for high-quality aquaponic fish and produce.

In addition, the programme, with support from INMED-trained RADA agents, can strengthen Jamaica's agricultural economy, increase food security, foster climate change resilience, and improve public health.

As the story reminds us, climate-related events are major threats to the agricultural sector, which represents about seven per cent of gross domestic product and employs roughly 18 per cent of Jamaica's population. That threat, the INMED officials note, makes it essential to introduce new business models and technologies that will equip farmers to not only adapt, but to thrive.

The story quotes Mr Marcus Sewell, one of 20 farmers to participate in INMED Caribbean's first three-day training workshop in mid-July.

According to Mr Sewell, the aquaponics programme piqued his interest because it gives him “the opportunity to introduce technology while using innovation to help produce healthy food”.

Aquaponics, of course, is not new to Jamaica. The technique has proved successful and has benefited a number of small farmers across the island.

The INMED officials tell us that they are working with the Development Bank of Jamaica and local financial institutions to provide IACA programme participants with access to affordable financing to start aquaponics enterprises and facilitate loan repayment.

In addition, INMED, with support from the CDB, is training local RADA extension agents to provide ongoing technical training and assistance to farmers in their communities to grow and sustain the programme.

We commend INMED for this programme and express the hope that more young Jamaicans, in particular, will utilise it to improve their lives and those of their families. It is a programme worthy of greater public support.