Digicel Foundation injects $3m into Canaan Heights farming group
A group of six young men is leading the way in their community of Canaan Heights through their Progressive Growth farming business.
They are now overjoyed by the $3-million injection from the Digicel Foundation, which will ensure that their farming business gets some well-needed equipment.
In a sit-down with The Gleaner, project manager Nickiel McPherson said he and his brother Melbourne were drawn into farming two years ago by Cleon Roxburgh, who first started out.
"He was into livestock and planting stuff like plantain and other crops," he said.
Although they were "doing okay", there were a lot of challenges that prevented them from taking their farming activities to the next level.
They welcomed the news that Digicel had a call for grant application and, with the help of mentor Damion Young, local economic development officer at the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, and a friend, the grant application was submitted.
Roxburgh said he can't thank the communication company enough as they have opened the door wide for them to live their dreams.
"We are now able to reach out to other youths in the community and introduce them to farming. They are getting another option to crime and getting into trouble," he said.
The unattached young people in the community have started volunteering their efforts, Roxburgh said, and, although he can't pay them properly, he ensure they receive some form of compensation for their efforts.
Roxburgh said his team started off with a "little piece of land", working now with the grant, and they are now looking to acquire more lands and expand their farming business.
"We want to build a bigger thing that it can split for all of us. Almighty set it up and now we have a chance for more equipment, land, container and other necessities to push us faster," he said.
Melbourne, in highlighting some of the challenges, said it includes water not flowing straight to the farm, and that's one of the main things they will be dealing with.
Admitting they still have a lot to learn about the business, they expressed gratitude to Young, who they say offers good advice and works with them to ensure their business is handled professionally.
Looking ahead, Nickiel said he sees their project taking on the international market.
But, for now, he said all members are looking forward to getting additional training so they can be more knowledgeable about the field they are in.
Roxburgh said he grew up without a father and by the time he opened his eyes to life, his mother had no money to send him to school. He is determined that history will not repeat itself with his children, and that's all the motivation he needs to work hard and give them what he never had - a father by their side.
The two brothers are just as adamant about their role in their children's lives as they, too, admit to being the driving force to make a success of the business.
All three are reaching out to other young people to get into the field, as they said older farmers will soon have to let go and young people must be ready to take up the mantle.