With approximately 9.9 per cent of Jamaica's 2.7-million population living below the poverty line in 2007 and rural areas accounting for 71 per cent of the nation's poor, the Scientific Research Council (SRC), through its partners the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme, developed the Rural Youth Employment Project (RUYE).
According to the SRC, the implementation of the RUYE project will see to the reduction of the incidence of poverty, unemployment and exclusion among vulnerable youth groups and selected communities, particularly in rural Jamaica.
The project is made possible through a US1.25 million support and additional assistance from the Planning Institute of Jamaica, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and other stakeholders. The project will attempt to work through established community groups, but is also open to youths not currently involved in such groups.
The project should enhance current efforts to strengthen the linkages between the agriculture and tourism sectors and the servicing of underserved niche markets. "It will contribute to the reduction of rural youth unemployment by increasing the ability of youths to access sustainable livelihood options. This will be achieved through the provision of skills training and increased access to post-harvest production facilities to improve the agriculture value-added. Both in-school and unattached youths will be targeted, though primary focus will be given to youths out of school," the SRC said.
"The aim is to increase the number of youths in the targeted communities who are actively employed or earning a living directly or indirectly through agriculture. In addition, youths will have the necessary skills to identify and access opportunities for engaging in other businesses along the agriculture value chain," the SRC added.
The Llandewey Group, located in Western St Thomas, comprises 40 youths, ages 15-29, who have benefited from the RUYE project. The group selected bee keeping and honey processing as the income-generating activity that could take them out of poverty. The RUYE project provided a minimum economically viable unit of bee hives (five hives) for each individual. The group, however, unselfishly agreed to take four hives each and leave one hive in the community apiary for newcomers.
The group has so far produced in excess of 400 quarts of honey. All remaining constant these beekeepers can earn approximately $60,000 from four hives per year. However, with the training received these youths have surpassed the minimum amount of hives given to them and have multiplied them three-fold and more.
An exceptional case is Fabian Williams, he multiplied his five hives to 25 within eight months and has, so far, reaped 25 gallons of honey. He states that the project offers him fulfilment and there is a greater potential to earn more working for himself as a bee keeper. This activity has placed him above the rest of his bee partners as he dedicates a lot of his time taking care of his bees.
"I like the flexibility of this bee-keeping business as it allows me to earn otherwise. In three years, I should have a well-established bee-keeping business and this will allow me to concentrate solely on it as a means of living. I feel like a kind of mentor now," Williams said.
Roger Douglas is also holding his own in the project. He now has six hives and is elated about the fact that he will reap his first batch of honey in December. Douglas was introduced to RUYE shortly after leaving school. "If RUYE did not come into my life when it did, I would still be struggling to find work, I am very grateful," he said.
Douglas stated that RUYE has transformed him into a businessman. In December, he estimates that he will reap 10 gallons of honey, which is 20 quart bottles at $2,000 each.
The duration of the project is two years and will come to an end on December 31.