A helping hand for cocoa farmers
More than 300 cocoa farmers have benefited from a rehabilitation exercise carried out by the Jamaica Cocoa Farmers' Association (JCFA). Three hundred and ninety two acres of cocoa farms in the parishes of St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, St Catherine and Clarendon have been rehabilitated since 2013 under projects supported by the Community Development Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank/Multilateral Fund (IDB/MIF).
The rehabilitation took place in the five major cocoa-producing parishes in Jamaica. St Mary accounted for 156.2 acres; St Catherine, 102; Clarendon, 71.43; Portland, 38.5 and St Thomas, 24 acres.
"We are undertaking a US$2.6-million revitalisation project. The IDB is contributing more than US$1.8 million in project funds. A critical component of the project involves enhancing the productivity of cocoa farms. We have four extension officers and one rehabilitation specialist on staff. They provide technical assistance to farmers on how best to care for their cocoa trees. The rehabilitation exercise is one of the most important aspects of the service that we provide to our farmers. Without it, all of our objectives and goals would be undermined," said Clayton Williams, president of the JCFA.
Williams said that the JCFA was about changing culture and the mindsets of farmers. "It is imperative for our farmers to work smarter and not necessarily harder, especially given the demographic profile of our farmers. The average age of our farmers is 65, and that is why we are involving the youth population, in order to achieve long-term sustainability. We have trained more than 50 young persons in best practices in the rehabilitation process. They were also engaged as rehabilitative technicians to work on farms in the community".
He noted that young people were not interested in subsistence farming. "We must demonstrate the profitability of the crop for small farmers. We are aiming for better quality beans and higher yields with a higher tree count per acre, which will translate into more income for farmers," Williams added.