Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Red Stripe enrols more women in cassava project

Published:Friday | December 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dr Damian 'Damo' Graham

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

In doing its part to curb unemployment among women and enhance the agricultural sector, Red Stripe has made it its mandate to recruit 40 per cent of females for their cassava cultivation project.

The company has established a cluster of cassava farms across the island, in keeping with its overall aim to significantly cut production costs and improve supply security by using more locally produced raw material during the brewing process.

Dr Damian 'Damo' Graham, head of the Local Raw Material Supply Chain, who was speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday, said in order to make the farming industry sustainable, stakeholders would have to change the way things are done.

"We have moved from recruiting one in six females to 11 in 29 and that's deliberate because we want to bring a shift in the demographics. Most of our farmers in the country are over 60 years old; we believe that we have to embrace gender diversity," he said.

"Based on research that we have done, as well, we have identified that female farmers are few, and if we are going to bring about a sustainable workforce to support a worthwhile supply chain, it must reflect the diversity of the population which it pulls from. We want to ensure that the pool from which we work is balanced," he told The Gleaner.

He added: "This is about creating opportunities and investing in the future. It's important that we be innovative and empower both males and females to achieve their fullest potential."

Graham also noted that he was impressed by the participants' attitude, adding that he is expecting great results.

"It's very refreshing because these women are no different from their male counterparts, as it relates to their aptitude, attitude and competence," he said.

Ann-Marie McGeachy is one of the many females that Graham spoke about. The 39-year-old who is from Portmore, St Catherine, describes her experience with the programme as life-changing.

"This opportunity came at a time when I did not have a steady job and things were very challenging. I was actually a painter and money was not forthcoming as how I would want it. Now I can rest assured that I will be getting some money every fortnight and I was exposed to top-class teaching and training," she said.

"I want to encourage women not to think of farming only as a way to get your hands dirty. There are many opportunities through which you can develop and become innovative," she added.