Ian Boyne, Contributor
Ray Chang (left) of G. Raymond Chang Foundation, and Parris A. Lyew-Ayee, general manager of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute discuss the growth of a batch of seedlings at the handing-over ceremony for the $1.7 million seedling nursery, given by G. Raymond Chang to the JBI to assist farmers working on reclaimed bauxite lands. The function was held at the JBI's Old Hope offices in St. Andrew last year. - CONTRIBUTED
THE BAUXITE alumina industry has not only been a primary foreign ex-change earner for Jamaica, grossing over US$900 million in the last fiscal year and slated to earn over $1.018 billion this year, but there is life after bauxite.
Even after bauxite lands have been mined-out, these lands continue to provide opportunities for many Jamaicans.
Large acreages of mined-out lands are now being used for agricultural, commercial, housing and infrastructural purposes in the bauxite parishes of Manchester, St. Ann, St Elizabeth and Clarendon.
Up to August this year, the total acreage of lands disturbed for mining amounted to 6610.93 hectares, most of which have been used for agricultural projects.
The Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) has played a major role in overseeing and initiating projects for the use of mined-out lands.
Head of the JBI's Lands Division, Dianne Gordon, explains: "The JBI, as a matter of policy, is directly facilitating programmes to get more farmers actively involved in producing crops on mined-out bauxite lands, while at the same time forging special marketing arrangements for the crops being grown under the programme. The matter of putting mined-out, reclaimed land to productive and profitable use is a priority for the Government, especially in light of the growing demand for land for residential, agricultural and public uses. This has been a major focus of the JBI".
As a result, more mined-out lands are being used for agricultural projects, tenant farming, resettlement housing, playfields, community facilities and small industrial establish-ments.
Not only has the JBI encouraged farmers to use mined-out lands for agricultural projects, but the organisation has actively conducted research into crops which can most profitably be grown on mined-out lands.
In the early days, it was thought that mined-out bauxite lands were suitable for mainly livestock rearing, primarily dairy farming, as well as for just a few crops.
But scientific research done by the JBI, and which actively continues, has proven that a number of crops can be profitably grown on these lands.
The lands department of the JBI has been feverish in its efforts to increase the agricultural productivity of mined-out bauxite lands.
The JBI has established experimental plots of cassava, tomatoes, Scotch Bonnet pepper, peanuts, pineapple and other crops on lands in Schwallen-burgh, Hyde Park and Skipton in St Ann, and at Belmont and Mocho in Clarendon.
The results have shown that the yields for certain crops on the mind-out lands actually exceed the national average. Such is the case, for example, with tomatoes, cucumber, sweet pepper and Scotch Bonnet pepper.
For example, over 60 per cent of Windalco's reclaimed lands are being used by approximately 800 tenant farmers in Manchester for agricultural production. Also, 30 per cent of Alpart's mined-out land is leased to small farmers.
"Under the bauxite community development programme administered by the JBI, projects to expand the cultivation of peanuts, sweet potatoes and cassava production have been implemented by RADA in Manchester, St. Ann and St Catherine", Ms. Gordon stated.
She adds that in Mocho, Clarendon, "significant efforts" have been made in the production of plantains, coffee, breadfruit, citrus and ackee.
"This is in addition to the project involving the JBI, Jamalco and the Inter-American Institute on Cooperation in Agriculture to use lands in the Mocho area for the upgrading of the local goat stock which has resulted in more productive uses of these lands there", she says.
The JBI has also initiated a project with Windalco in St Ann to expand the areas under pepper cultivation by an additional 100 hectares. The current project involves 40 acres of land under commercial pepper production at Union Hill, Rio Hoe, Riverhead, Bromley, Islington and Crawl.
To date, over 60 farmers have been provided with inputs and irrigation and are regularly supplying peppers to Walkerswood Caribbean Foods under a contractual marketing arrangement.
At least 42 of these farmers have been provided with inputs and mini-irrigation systems through the BCDP. The project will be expanded to include Woodsfield and Haddon.
The JBI is currently in discussions with the St Ann Bauxite Producers Limited to bring 75 acres under spice production to supply the expanded Walkerswood plant.
The plan calls for Scotch Bonnet and West Indian red peppers to be planted on mined-out lands at Burnt Ground, Armadale, Wakering, Hyde Park and Rosetta.
Pepper and spice production will be expanded in Manchester and St Elizabeth.
Next week, Ian Boyne looks at other uses for reclaimed bauxite land.