Eighteen small farmers, who cultivate fruits and vegetables on the Braco Farms in Trelawny, are benefitting from the installation of a drip irrigation system.
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) provided funding for the $11.7 million project, which included the establishment of a food safety facility, where the farmers can package and store their produce, which includes watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet pepper, onion, and scallion.
JSIF officially handed over the project to the farmers on Thursday (Aug. 13), where the entity signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) for the supply of water.
Speaking at the ceremony, Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, welcomed the undertaking.
“I am confident that this project will go a long way in enabling improvements in agricultural productivity and production through the provision of affordable irrigation services to our farmers,” he said.
He noted that Braco Farms is ideally located between two major development projects, which will provide opportunity for farmers to market their produce.
“This project is located at a very important place. You are between the (Melia) Braco Resort that is next door and you are at the other end of the Harmony Cove development. It is significant that you have a project here that has been concentrated mostly on the production of vegetables because that is one of the product lines that the hotels need more than anything else,” he said.
Minister Kellier noted that with Melia Braco expected to come on stream later this year, “you can produce to support the hotel next door, rather than for things to come from further afield. It puts you in a position to supply your produce much cheaper because there is less transportation cost.”
The Agriculture Minister stressed the Government’s commitment to providing the country’s farmers with access to irrigation to boost productivity, so as to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported produce, and to enhance food safety and security.
He informed that over the last 10 years, over $5 billion has been spent to install new irrigation systems across the island.
Two of these were commissioned within the last two years, one at New Forrest in Manchester and another at Yallahs, St. Thomas, where Agro Parks have been established.
“We are already seeing the transformational impact of these new irrigation systems,” Minister Kellier said.
Installation of the drip irrigation system, which covers 15 acres of land, comes under the World Bank-funded Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI).
The MoU will also result in the NIC identifying additional projects that could be supported by JSIF, facilitating sensitisation opportunities for farming groups and communities in irrigation areas, providing technical expertise and supporting training initiatives for the development of primary irrigation systems.
Source: Marlon Tingling, Jamaica Information Service