RADA service promises massive increase in farmers' production
Farmers who utilise the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's (RADA) extension service are likely to see increases of up to 500 per cent in production, the agency's acting senior director of marketing has revealed.
Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Vaughn Barnaby lauded the extension service but also acknowledged the current challenges being faced by the programme.
The free RADA extension service is provided to farmers who wish to receive additional expertise with the goal to increase production.
The farmer field school programme is one of the initiatives under the extension service.
Though the field school programme is "not as widespread as we need it to be", Barnaby spoke of the benefits farmers enjoy when they participate in the programme.
"The farmer learns as he is doing; he learns about land preparation," Barnaby explained. "The farmer would then go back and implement the techniques on his farm. He would learn about different crop practices, and then he would go back and implement them."
Training under the programme occurs throughout the farmer's crop cycle.
Barnaby was quick to emphasise that the extension service is not limited to farmers registered with RADA.
"Any farmer can go to any one of our parish offices, state your claim that you are a farmer, and you would like an extension officer to come out. Or you can say to us that you are having an issue and the extension officer will visit you."
Currently, RADA employs more than 100 extension officers but augments its staff by partnering with agricultural input providers.
While Jamaica's ratio of approximately one extension officer to 2,000 farmers is low compared with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) benchmark of one officer to 500 farmers, Barnaby said RADA has to be efficient given the current limitations.
"It would be good to have the ratio set by the FAO; we would be able to get more done," Barnaby said. "But given the constraints we are now at, we are shifting to be more efficient."
RADA, along with 14 other organisations, participated in the Jamaica Agricultural Society's inaugural agricultural, food security and economic summit last Thursday at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.