Farmers, who are involved in two major Greenhouse and water harvesting projects in Watt Town and Tobolski in South West St. Ann, are expressing delight with the initiative, which they say are adding economic value to their communities.
Speaking to JIS News the farmers who have been cultivating sweet peppers, tomatoes and other exotic vegetables for the hotel and supermarket retail sectors said they are overjoyed at the establishment of the projects on mined-out bauxite lands which were previously idle.
President of the Tobolski Farmers’ Group, Roselda Walker said the projects provide a great opportunity for residents of the community to improve their lives through agriculture.
“We produce tomatoes and sweet peppers. Whatever we put in, that is what we are going to take out and as long as we take care of it, we will expand and certainly bring a better standard of living for us here in Tobolski,” Mrs. Walker said.
She said the farmers have started reaping the first crop of tomatoes and sweet peppers which were planted in January. Since April, over 8, 000 kilograms of produce have already been sold.
Jennifer West-Straw, President of the Watt Town Progressive Farmers’ Association told JIS News that apart from the economic value that the project brings to the community, it has given the farmers a sense of pride to be a part of it.
“I want to tell you that we have 20 farmers who are benefiting from this project and right now they have sold almost 17, 000 pounds of tomatoes and 1, 650 pounds of sweet peppers per week,” Mrs. West-Straw said.
The overall project is worth $243 million, with $173 million coming from JSIF and $61 million from the JBI. The farmers are engaged in the cultivation of eight crops, including sweet peppers and tomatoes for the hotel sector.
She stated that based on the success of the project so far, plans are being formulated for its expansion to include a number of young farmers from the community.
“Right now we wouldn’t mind if we have some more greenhouses because we have spots where they can be placed in order for other people to benefit-especially the young people. Working in a green house, it is a clean environment and we are assuring them that farming is the best; farming is life,” Mrs. West-Straw stated.
Meanwhile, Transport and Mining Minister, Hon. Mike Henry commended the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, (JSIF), the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, (JBI) and Noranda Bauxite Company for establishing the greenhouse clusters and water harvesting projects.
He stated that the farmers have been doing extremely well on the mined-out bauxite lands in the two communities and has encouraged them to continue to make the best productive use of the property which has been returned to them.
Mr. Henry also highlighted the importance of the farmers working as a group to achieve firstly the implementation of the project, as well as the high levels of production experienced since reaping has started.
The Transport and Mining Minister also encouraged the farmers to move into the value added market where the shelf life of their produce can be extended.
“The rejected peppers can be mashed and made into pepper mash which might have more value than the actual pepper you sell to the hotels,” Minister Henry opined.
The projects, which are under the auspices of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) Rural Economic Development Initiative and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), are located in Watt Town and Tobolski in South West St Ann, and involve some 160 farmers and over 40 greenhouses.
Other greenhouses are located in Schwollingburg and Nine Miles in St Ann; Content, Blue Mountain, and Rose Hill in Manchester; and Myersville in St Elizabeth.