Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Junction could be its own worst enemy

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Adrian Frater photo Howard Hendricks
Adrian Frater photo Otis Sherman, Jamaica Agricultural Society's parish manager for St Elizabeth.

Achieving prosperity at an early age has led to a culture of independence among residents of Junction, St Elizabeth, but that factor is now said to be threatening to stifle further growth and development in the rural township.

And while Junction continues to enjoy a rapid expansion and diversification in business and commercial ventures, agriculture remains the bedrock of the thriving rural town. But it is the success in the cultivation of melon, tomato, scallion and thyme which has contributed to the parish's well-deserved reputation as the country's bread basket, that now threatens to stymie its prospects for accessing the benefits of the global economy.

This was one the failures identified by persons who have invested time, money and skills in Junction over the years. That fact came out during last week Thursday's 'Job Creation, Investment and Growth Forum,' in Junction.

Otis Sherman, chairman of the St Elizabeth Association of Branch Societies of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), explained that, after completing 10th grade, many school students opt to go into farming full-time, instead of completing their high-school education.

"Once they start earning money from this tender age, earning a lot of money, them say, alright, them can do what them want to do," Sherman disclosed, adding that getting them to see the need for further education or training becomes all but impossible.

"I tell you, Junction, they have a culture and a mindset that is very difficult to change. Once they hold a thing it is very difficult for them to change," the JAS executive noted.

He said the youngsters usually challenge arguments for educational advancement by pointing to their level of prosperity, compared to that of the more matriculated and older persons, trying to convince them.

"They say, no man, I'm making so much money?"

Businessman Howard Hendricks said the perpetuation of this way of life over many generations has contributed to a large proportion of the population being very wealthy but having only basic education.

Meanwhile, Richard Parchment, member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth is convinced this early prosperity has contributed to a culture of independence among the population that is hurting the town's prospects to really develop in a structured and cohesive manner.

"In Junction, the people have grown up so independent that they don't understand that working together, there can be common good, so that is one of the greatest failings," the member of parliament admitted.

Despite the situation, Sherman said the JAS remains committed to bringing its members up to speed with the latest agricultural techniques and prepare them to successfully tap into the lucrative global market for Jamaica's agricultural products and services.

More than 300 farmers have been trained and certified by the HEART Trust Academy but it has taken some doing to convince some to participate.