Farm-road repairs now a priorty
The Government recently signed contracts for the start of phase two of the National Farm Roads Programme under which 41 "priority" roads in farming communities across the 13 parishes outside of the capital, Kingston, have been identified for rehabilitation and maintenance.
While the proposed budget for the islandwide project is $1.22 billion, some $500 million has been approved for disbursement in three phases, with the contracts signed, having a combined value of $182 million. The work will include resurfacing, patching, cleaning, construction, improvement of drainage and general maintenance, and improvement of existing farm and feeder roads, which agriculture minister Derrick Kellier admitted was long overdue.
"Over the years, we have unfortunately, approached the rehabilitation and maintenance of farm roads on an ad hoc basis and have been dependent on the generosity of our international partners to fund projects from time to time," Kellier told the signing ceremony at Jamaica House. However, under this project, the Government will undertake a comprehensive and coordinated approach to redressing this long-standing problem," he promised.
"For the first time in a joined-up government approach, our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been given budgetary allocations by the Ministry of Finance and Planning, specifically for farm roads. This is indeed game-changing," the agriculture minister declared.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller explained that the farm road project was consistent with the Government's development priorities.
"It is part and parcel of our agenda for economic growth and social development. The programme is being implemented as a catalyst for rural development," Simpson Miller said. To this end, the roads to be repaired were selected in conjunction with the overall domestic crop-development plan as it relates to the projected short-to medium-term crop-production targets.
In order to ensure the sustainable economic impact of the programme, the following were among the selection criteria used:
n Roads must be from the more productive areas those that have a high concentration of farmers and related agricultural activities.
n Roads that are poor and prohibit accessibility, especially during the rainy season.
For this reason, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) will have overall responsibility for execution of and reporting on the programme deliverables payment, supervision, formulation, procurement and monitoring, as well as evaluation. As the implementing agency, RADA will work in partnership with the National Works Agency and local parish councils via a programme implementation committee, which will be chaired by its executive director Lenworth Fulton and which will include representatives from the parish councils and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.