Jamaicans strengthen food security and agriculture resilience – ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’

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Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., making his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 17. [Photo: Mark Bell]

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) –  Jamaica’s agriculture sector is slated to benefit from millions of dollars in support to bolster food security by strengthening the country’s agricultural output and improving sustainability and resilience within the sector, reports Alecia Smith; while introducing a new campaign dubbed ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ as part of the national food security thrust, reports Rochelle Williams.

Funding to strengthen food security, agriculture resilience

The initiatives, to be implemented through partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), include a $38-million Food Loss and Waste (FLW) Reduction programme that will focus on strengthening food value chain operations. It is part of strategic food security actions for the new fiscal year.

“That will speak to a strategy for reducing food losses along value chains, supporting our farmers to reduce post-harvest losses, and extending produce shelf-life to ensure enhanced farm and household cash inflows,” said agriculture and fisheries minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., while making his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 17.

The ministry will also be collaborating with the FAO to undertake projects to improve phytosanitary, food safety and market access opportunities along the hot pepper value chain, with funding of $152 million, and improve rural livelihoods through resilient agri-food systems, at a cost of $152 million.

The partnership will also include the $45-million Rocky Point Fishing Beach Improvement Project to include provision of landing equipment, fish cleaning and storage facilities, mangrove protection, as well as training for users, and the identification of two technical projects valued at $37 million for implementation across the sector.

Minister Charles Jr., informed that under the South-South Cooperation Programme, which is a partnership with FAO, China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Jamaica will benefit from a project valued at approximately US$2 million.

It is aimed at strengthening post coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery policies and programmes that facilitate better decision-making; promoting digitalisation and eCommerce strategies among farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); and providing inputs for digitalisation of rural areas and for participation in the United Nations’ 1,000 Digital Village Initiative as a post-COVID-19 measure.

The minister noted that the FAO has greatly assisted the sector with technical training, funding of programmes and initiatives, and its continued support in the upcoming year in key focus areas is in line with the organisation’s thrust to support food security in the region.

‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’

Meanwhile, the ministry of agriculture and fisheries is introducing a new campaign dubbed ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ as part of the national food security thrust.

The initiative will target several priority areas, among them crop production, climate-smart practices and technologies, access to finance, and advancing and expanding insurance for farmers, with a focus on praedial larceny. It will also facilitate development of a National Farming Trust and expansion of fisherfolk and farmers insurance.

Portfolio minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., who announced the initiative in his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 17 said, ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ builds upon the existing policies and programmes to increase production and consumption of local produce.

“It is also intended to… introduce innovations and technology, and advance research and development towards [improving] operations to develop and, ultimately, achieve better results. We will grow smart and eat smart,” he said.

Among other things, it is intended that the campaign will examine the current culture in the agriculture sector and address the gaps to promote greater collaboration and efficiency.

These include providing financing, technical training and support for farmers, especially the youth, to take up farming as a viable business option; providing more leases for idle agriculture lands; and promoting linkages and partnerships.

“We will be focused on driving the linkages with health and updating the current food and nutrition policy to boost consumption of nutritious local foods,” the minister informed, the campaign will also seek to revamp the school garden programme to, among other things, introduce new technology, such as hydroponics, which will be piloted in high schools. Inputs will be provided to institutions to start gardens.

The ministry will also launch a Praedial Larceny Working Group, to provide support for access to agriculture inputs (tools, fertiliser, training), and facilitate market-driven opportunities for farmers and fisherfolk through this campaign.

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