Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Lilliput sustainable tourism backyard farming bears fruit

Published:Friday | February 28, 2020 | 12:22 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Lilliput small garden farmer Vannal Watkin (right) shows his organic crop to Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett and Tourism Linkages Network Director Carolyn McDonald-Riley.
Lettuce being grown organically by Vannal Watkin of Lilliput.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

A year after Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett announced his pioneering agri-tourism Backyard Garden Programme for the Lilliput community in St James, the initiative has not only blossomed, but has literally bore fruit.

In March 2019, Bartlett had announced that the Tourism Linkages Network of the Ministry of Tourism had commenced the initiative involving small farmers in Lilliput, which is home to the Iberostar Resorts and the soon-to-be constructed Hard Rock Hotel.

Last Saturday, Bartlett led a tour of the hydroponics greenhouse and small farms in the community which were producing lettuce, sweet peppers, sweet basil, sweetcorn, parsley, tomatoes, and other vegetables and herbs, all grown organically by some of the 20 participants in the programme. So far, the grouping is contracted to supply produce to Iberostar, Margaritaville and the Deja Resort.

“The whole idea is to replicate this across the areas where there are clusters of hotels. So while we may not be able, initially, to supply all the needs of the industry by way of food, we certainly can create a serious dent in the niche of what you call farm-to-table, that is, the organic food that the hotels are craving these days,” Bartlett said.

“More of the millennials and even the baby boomers are craving for non-genetically modified food. They want more organic food, and so this is an important way of doing it, but also of making ordinary people ingrained in that system and is infused in tourism,” the minister explained.

Bartlett told The Gleaner that part of the tourism ministry’s aim is to “create the base and build an appetite among our people to start producing”, and dispel the misconception held by many small farmers that they cannot produce for hotels because they won’t buy from them.

“We are turning that notion on its head. The hotels are saying, we will buy from you if you are there. It’s more cost-effective; there is no freight; no insurance, packaging and all these additional things. And it comes farm-fresh, and you can literally walk across the road with the supplies, as is the case here in Lilliput where Mr Hofer (Iberostar’s director general) is,” Bartlett said.

He argued that the success of the Lilliput programme was a key indicator of how ordinary Jamaicans can be pulled into the tourism value chain. He also reiterated the fact that creating a circular economy is key to tourism sustainability in Jamaica.

“Hotels that are around communities like this must begin to benefit the communities, and one of the ways is for us to be creative and to utilise technology, build farming arrangements that could produce fresh fruit and vegetable supplies,” he stated.

His comments were bolstered by Director of the Tourism Linkages Network, Carolyn McDonald-Riley, who remarked that the Lilliput programme was highly comprehensive and included areas such as biosafety, integrated pest management, organic agriculture, and other topics.

The six-month-old programme involved education and training conducted by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, College of Agriculture, Science and Education, and HEART Trust/NSTA.

“There is a certification process, so while it is that they were trained and educated, HEART is here to ensure that they are certified, and that they can help with the training of other persons who come on,” she said.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com