Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
In many rural communities, unemployment is one of the greatest problems faced by the residents, especially by youth who have recently left school. The most usual source of income is farming, or in some areas, coal burning. But these occupations are not always the safest either for the individual or for the environment.
Many farmers and coal burners contribute to deforestation and pollution, and over time, their land is damaged, thus curtailing their livelihood. While there are ways in which persons can farm without doing extensive damage to the environment, residents in Port Morant, St Thomas, have found another alternative in the raising of bees.
Twenty-three boxes of bees now serve 15 members of the community as the main source of income. The hives, as well as start-up capital, an extractor, and technical support and training were provided by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), with the assistance of the St Thomas Environmental Protection Association, under the GOJ/EU/UNEP Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project. One of the project's goals is to reduce the damage to the environment by targeting persons who engage in unsafe farming practices in rural areas, while ensuring for them a steady source of income.
Community members who are participating in the project went through a month and a half of rigorous training at the Rural Agricultural Development Agency offices in Lyssons, St Thomas, to ensure that they were capable of taking care of the bees. The members, through the Port Morant Community Development Committee, also established an account with NEPA, which will facilitate the payment of the residents, as well as contribute to other profitable community projects.
Howard Thompson, a participant, explained that the community benefited greatly from the project: "There's a lot of unemployment here, so this is a very good thing for us. And we are not just planning to sell honey. Eventually, we will be selling pollen as well. There is an excellent market for it now. We have a box that collects pollen, and eventually, we'll have enough to sell."
Pansy Murphy, president of the Port Morant CDC, also pointed out that this was not the only project of its kind in the community. The Digicel Foundation has agreed to fund 30 hives at a cost of J$1.6 million, and training for this project is expected to begin at the end of the month. A tract of land has already been identified to house the bees, and long-term plans are in place to develop secondary products alongside the pollen and honey such as fruit juices, wax, and honey derivatives.