Fri | Sep 18, 2020

Women farmers get creative amid drought

Published:Saturday | July 4, 2020 | 12:08 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Tamisha Lee
Tamisha Lee

Hard-hit by the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, some rural women have resorted to planting more drought-resistant crops in an effort to continue eking out a living in the male-dominated field.

According to president of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers (JNRWP), Tamisha Lee, some women farmers have turned to planting sweet potato, pioneer corn, sweet pepper, pumpkin, cucumber, and a specific variety of crops like tomatoes, which are more heat resistant.

“We have been providing fertilisers and input supplies to help our ladies replant. Because of the shutdown of the hotels and the parties, and stuff like that, what you find is that a lot of them had glut and spoilage because they would have lost money, which would have affected their replanting process,” she said.

That’s not their only challenge.

“The children are not in school, so the women’s time on the farm has been reduced because of that because they have to now be taking care of the elderly and also the children, so their burden has increased,” she said.

The group got some fertilisers from both government and private companies, which have been allocated to women farmers in St Thomas, Manchester, St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, and Trelawny.

Forty women have benefited from this initiative.

The JNRWP has also made cash advances available under their Community Outreach Through Partnership for Empowerment initiative, which was funded by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. The money has been used to help women farmers take care of their immediate needs.

The farmers have also been getting access to farmers’ markets through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Jamaica Agricultural Society.

“Before COVID, the drought was there, so the COVID is now an added burden to the ongoing problem,” said Lee.

Women are also going into distribution as COVID-19 has caused some of their previous customers to mostly stay indoors.

“They are purchasing the food from the farmers, and they are the ones going house-to-house and selling it,” Lee pointed out.