Health coming for the nation's soil
The Ministry of Agriculture is embarking on a year-long project aimed at improving the country's soil health.
Portfolio minister Derrick Kellier made the disclosure during the launch of the International Year of Soils 2015, held on Wednesday at the ministry in Kingston.
The aim is to address the problem of degrading soil quality in Jamaica, which is key to improving the output of the country's agricultural sector, and to enhance food security and safety.
"To 'grow what we eat and eat what we grow', we need healthy soil ... . If the soil loses its natural capability to produce food for local consumption and export, the effects will also be felt in our inability to earn foreign exchange," he noted.
The minister argued that good soil is critical to the continued success of the ministry's priority policies, programmes, and projects such as expansion of the agro parks across the island.
"One of the main criteria in selecting the location and determining the level of expansion of the agro park programme is to establish farms with good soil health," he said.
policies to drive sector
"It must, therefore, be underscored that having healthy and fertile soil is critical to the performance of the agricultural sector in meeting targets for national development," he pointed out, noting that the ministry "remains committed to the task of ensuring that healthy soil is at the forefront of our policies and programmes to drive the sector forward".
The year-long initiative, which will involve various stakeholders in the agricultural sector, will incorporate several activities geared towards increasing public knowledge and best practices in improving soil health.
These include conducting soil analysis in agro parks and other research activities aimed at assessing the status of soil health in various locations across the island.
There will also be review and updating of the 'Soils Policy for Jamaica'; dissemination of information on the importance of soil to various target audiences; video presentations and group discussions with farmers, as well as students of 4-H clubs; and a poster design and jingle competition targeted at high-school students.
Displays highlighting the importance of soil health and soil sampling will be mounted at agricultural exhibitions such as Denbigh, while technical assistance will be provided to the College of Agriculture, Science and Education and other institutions.
Additionally, the ministry will be hosting a 'Status of Soils in Jamaica' seminar on December 5, which is also designated World Soil Day.