EPPING FOREST, Manchester:
With more than 3,500 registered farmers across the Comfort Hall extension zone of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), in Northwest Manchester, some Epping Forest farmers who fall within the defined area are seeking further assistance to boost production, structure distribution and develop a stronger entrepreneurial framework around their livelihood.
Through the Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative (CJSDI), the newly formed farmers’ group was recently given a greenhouse through the US Forestry Department, along with farming tools and material as part of its Farmers’ Intervention Programme.
However, President of the Epping Forest Farmers’ Group John Farquharson and managing director of the CJSDI, Damion Young, who has been instrumental in structuring farmers’ groups across the parish, said the community is in dire need of better farm roads, among other resources.
“Our community has been overlooked, dimming the potential of one of the most productive farming areas in the parish. Most persons get discouraged because of the challenges they face with high taxi fares and transporting goods and supplies,” said Farquharson.
According to the parish manager of RADA, Winston Miller, Northwest Manchester is one of two sections in the parish with the highest productions.
This, according to Young, will position the area through the intervention programme for greater farming activities and resources, which will facilitate increased production.
“The farmers will be using the greenhouse to grow seedlings to sell to farmers, to see if they can generate income to help themselves. We don’t have the resources to do much, but the hope is that they will eventually reach to a place where they can generate income and make it sustainable.”
Young added that the farmers’ group has already identified additional land space and is hopeful for an even bigger greenhouse.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr, during the handover of the greenhouse to the farmers, made a commitment to assess the situation of the roads used by approximately 150 farmers in the community.
IMPROVE ON WHAT IS ACCESSIBLE
“It is my intention to fight for us to get not just the same but an increased allocation for the Farm Road Rehabilitation Projects. Access to the farms and from the farms to markets is a big problem [across Jamaica] and if we are to count on the agriculture and fisheries sector to grow, we have to improve on what is accessible.”
With an acknowledgement of the production potential that lies in the parish, Charles Jr said Manchester is classified as priority area for intervention.
“My goal is to have a mixture of the old traditional methods and the new innovation to find a way for you as farmers to adopt practices that are sure to protect your investments. When the weather decides to change, we can’t stop it, but we can prepare ourselves and reduce the impact that it can have.”
Charles indicated that the focus should continue to be on cutting the import bill and increasing exports to build generational wealth.
With 22 formal members in the Epping Forest Farmers’ Group, public relations officer Marcia Butler expects that the number will grow significantly by year end.
“The farmers are now doing more with vegetable planting and not just yams as they did initially. My hope is that things will be better and I know we can get help from the necessary agencies. It is the first time that we are having such a structured farmers’ group in Epping Forest and it is a blessing. We are encouraging all the farmers to come and join the movement,” Butler said.