Illiteracy danger - stakeholders say lack of education, training hindering farmers
Stakeholders in St Elizabeth think there is an urgent need to improve the education of farmers in a bid to improve the overall quality of the local agriculture sector, as well as to help develop an understanding of food safety issues.
Speaking at last week's Gleaner Municipal Corporation Forum at the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, in Black River, Deputy Superintendent of Police Paul Bernard, officer in charge of operations in the St Elizabeth police division, said he was worried that farmers' resistance to change will hurt agricultural growth.
"I believe illiteracy is one of the main drawbacks as it relates to the farmers," said Bernard. "St Elizabeth is said to be the breadbasket of the island, and the farmers are not willing to change their style ... . They are not equipped with new technology ... and the illiteracy, along with the fact that they refuse to change, are some of the hindrances in this parish," he said.
Dr Lynden Rose, a local justice of the peace, said that agriculture specialists needed to be brought in to give farmers hands-on training in new crop-growing methods.
"You need trainers on the ground, especially in the agricultural sector. You need trainers in special farming techniques, in the new methodologies," said Rose. "You need trainers on the ground to demonstrate to the farmers how to do this and do that, to give the hands-on approach."
Another concern that came to the fore was the proper use of chemicals, which is a key component in ensuring food safety.
According to Anthony Freckleton, chairman of the South Coast Resort Board, farmers need to be taught how to properly prepare chemicals to spray their crops and how to preserve what they reap.
"Over the years, we have been calling for proper labelling of chemicals," said Freckleton. "For the average farmer to translate what is on the label of his spray can, it can be very difficult ... . It needs to be broken down into a simpler formula so they can mix their chemicals properly, and a lot of farmers have departed this land because of misuse of chemicals.
"The other important thing is the preservation techniques, such as how to use solar-drying to dry products like tomatoes. Most of the farmers in the region have a good idea of how to grow things, but after that, we have problems preserving them," noted Freckleton.