Small farms, big problems - Tufton urges farmers to work in groups
Published: Friday | July 31, 2009
Delegates browse the Universtiy of West Indies' agriculture newsletter which was launched at the opening ceremony of a food-security conference at the University of the West Indies in St Andrew on Tuesday. - Contributed
The vastness of Jamaica's small-scale farm landscape will have a negative impact on the island's food security unless those resources are channelled into more viable cooperative initiatives, the agriculture minister has warned.
Speaking at a conference on food-security and agricultural development in the Americas on Tuesday, Dr Christopher Tufton argued that the 220,000 small farmers, who represent 76 per cent of Jamaica's agriculturists, posed environmental challenges.
"It is important that we devise a strategy because it is a reality we face. Small farms are actually expanding when you look at the trend analysis which, for me, is not a good thing, because what it means is that you are splintering farmlands and there are all sorts of consequences that accompany that," Tufton said.
"The reality is we have a lot of small farmers so the idea of clustering those small farmers to share in common technical support is absolutely fundamental. We have started to organise small farmers in groups and then into clusters," he added.
Other measures the Government sees as being crucial to food-security are the involvement of more young people in agriculture and the implementation of land-reform measures.
Tufton said the agricultural sector must become more sensitive to the needs of the marketplace and allow demand to drive production.
"Over the past year and half we have been a lot more sophisticated in trying to understand end users," he told the audience.
He said a number of marketing experts have been hired in the rural areas and at the ministry's head office in St Andrew.
"We have tried to establish a tracking system to always appreciate what the market is saying in terms of what they require and how they require it," said Tufton. "We have used that data to support the primary activity in the field."
The two-day conference, which ended yesterday, included panel sessions on food security and the future of the agricultural sector, among other topics.