Business

Partnerships with USAID, int'l universities to boost Red Stripe's 'Project Grow'

BY JAVENE SKYERS
Observer staff reporter
skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 14, 2017

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THE technical and research efforts of cassava farmers have been boosted after two memoranda of understanding (MOU) were signed to aid Red Stripe's 'Project Grow'.

The project is Red Stripe's local sourcing initiative to replace imported high maltose corn syrup with locally produced cassava starch and syrup by 2020.

One of the MOUs was signed between the United StAtes Agency for Development-funded and ACDI/VOCA-implemented Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH) project and Red Stripe's Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation. The other was signed by Ja REEACH and three international universities: Delaware State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Tuskegee University.

The signing ceremony took place last Friday at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, following a week of activities geared towards sensitisation about 'Project Grow' and the local cassava industry.

Chief of party for the Ja REEACH project, Karyll Aitcheson said that while there has been work done on the cassava industry, the representatives from the universities have been working extensively in countries with high cassava production and consumption, such as those on the African continent, and so they will be able to bring their experience to the table.

Meanwhile, associate dean of research at Delaware State University Dr Marikis Alvarez said it was a privilege for the represented universities, as historically black colleges and universities, to be a part of the local drive.

“Indeed, signing this MOU marks the beginning of a new level of linkage for us... it's gonna be one that marks a growth of partnership, one that will build relational capital and an opportunity for us to harvest our respective strengths to make sure that this initiative succeeds, and as institutions, this is our area where I think we have to take advantage,” Alvarez said.

He noted that they have at least a century worth of experience doing research and training students, and so they want to be able to share that experience as well as lessons with the participating stakeholders.

Director from the office of environment and health from USAID Jamaica, Sarah Buchanan, expressed similar sentiments, highlighting that it was an honour to be with people who are dedicated to the future of Jamaica and sustainable livelihoods for farmers.

She said that USAID is fully committed to supporting agricultural capacity and development as they recognise the importance of advancing food security in the global space and economy.

“Agriculture, of course, is a huge driver of economic growth within this country, however, meeting the demands of the local marketplace requires a new level of competitiveness on the part of producers, including small-scale farmers, hence their involvement in all levels of the value chain must be facilitated,” Buchanan said.

She said the agreement signed last Friday shows an effective combination of efforts by both the public and private sector, and said that through the multi-stakeholder partnership they can leverage the knowledge and resources of all parties.

According to local raw material business development manager at Red Stripe Cavell Francis-Rhiney, Project Grow, which started in 2013 as Red Stripe's sustainable initiative, falls in line with their parent company Heineken's overall sustainability initiative.

She explained that they are seeking to replace imported raw material currently used in the brew of Red Stripe's beer through the use of local produce in the form of cassava, substituting up to 40 per cent by 2020.

“We have piloted a lot of activities, including the commercial growing of cassava re the establishment of a 36-acre farm in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine. Subsequently, we have grown our own production from that 36 acres to 1,000 acres in all, and we have recruited along the way 103 farmers, totalling 1,159 acres to also grow on our behalf,” Francis-Rhiney said at the signing.

She added that at full scale, they will be growing roughly 20 per cent of their yields, with the other 80 per cent coming from outside farmers.

“That's part of the reason we're here today: it's because we recognise some challenges that our farmers face in commercial growing of cassava... we want to address those challenges that is identification of high yielding varieties which is very important for profitability of their agro enterprises — and also we want to ensure sustainability of the supply chain so other entities may be able to take advantage of the wonderful product that cassava is,” Francis-Rhiney said.

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