By Rochelle Williams
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Approximately 150 residents from Kitson Town will receive technical support and skills training to increase income generation and job opportunities under the Improving Rural Livelihoods Through Resilient Agri-Food Systems project.
An initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the project will target farmers, women, and youth from 26 districts in the rural St Catherine community.
They will benefit from skills training to incorporate climate-resilient agricultural technologies in their operations and support in entrepreneurship to implement agri-food businesses.
The objective is to reduce rural poverty and achieve sustainable livelihoods.
Addressing the launch ceremony on October 3 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, minister of agriculture, fisheries and mining, Floyd Green, welcomed the initiative in helping to build the resilience of the sector against climate change and other challenges.
“This project is critical because we are well aware of the challenges that small island developing states face in their pursuit of agricultural challenges that seem to undermine our traditional agri-food systems,” he noted.
“This project will focus on helping us to ensure that we can feed ourselves. It will focus on ensuring that we apply business principles to the practice of agriculture, it will help us to build resilience in our ever-changing climate, and it will help us to target some of our export markets,” he added.
Permanent secretary in the ministry of industry, investment and commerce, Sancia Bennett Templar, in her remarks, urged the beneficiaries to take advantage of the skills training and other technical assistance being provided.
Bennett Templar noted that the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), which falls under the ministry, will provide support to participants through its incubator facilities, to help them to become market and export-ready, and to operate their farms as businesses.
“Think of farming as a business. It is a business and the skills that participants will gain… can lead to them being involved in areas such as agro-processing [among other things] in the future,” she pointed out.
High Commissioner of India to Jamaica, His Excellency Masakui Rungsung, for his part, said that the project, which is being funded by the government of India under the United Nations (UN) South Cooperation Project, is a symbol of the good relationship and mutual friendship between the countries.
“[It is] a reflection of Jamaica’s commitment to [addressing] the needs of the people at the grassroots level,” he noted.
The four main outputs from the project are to provide the Government with technical assistance to design, plan, and implement agricultural technologies that will be incorporated in the initiative; provide the government with technical support to design and develop the curriculum that will be used for the participants within the training areas; enhance agricultural production in Kitson Town and improve the income of beneficiaries by at least 10 per cent; and provide training for beneficiaries and government officers in climate technologies.
The HEART NSTA/Trust will support skills training under the project.