Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Farmers urged to use technology to improve farming practices

Published:Saturday | January 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Damain Johnson, former lab tech at the Newell High School Farm, tends to the school's chickens. At the Newell High School, the use of technology and access to the internet plays an important role in influencing agricultural practices as well as in the instruction of students in better farming practices. - Contributed
Damain Johnson, former lab tech at the Newell High School Farm, feeds a rabbit. - Contributed

Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer

There was a time when technology and agriculture were considered as being at two different ends of the spectrum and as mutually exclusive. However, increases in population and food demands as well as an increase in access to technology can play an important role in agricultural practices if utilised in the right way.

In many rural communities, residents would have to travel some distance to have access to computers and the Internet. However, with the initiative of the Universal Service Fund to open community access-point facilities across the island, there is now a greater opportunity for farmers in rural communities to have access to this technology.

In addressing residents from south-east St Elizabeth, the farming centre of the Bread Basket parish, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell said the ultimate aim is to bring computer and Internet access to everyone. He said it was also the aim to have Jamaicans to not only appreciate the devices, but for them to recognise the benefits that can be derived from them.

"Jamaicans [need] to appreciate not only the device of the computer, but the related services - that these are things that will make our lives much better for the future. And in these parts, we have many difficulties, we've had many challenges, and I believe that there is a tremendous ray of hope going forward," the minister said.

With this in mind, chief executive officer at the Universal Services Fund, Hugh Cross, said that it was his hope that the community members, especially the farmers, would find creative ways in which to use the technology they had been given.

"Farmers can market their produce, access pricing information. They can access instructions on how to improve their farming methodologies.

"There is a beetle, for example, and maybe that's something other farmers in the world have encountered, and access to the Internet will allow farmers to research what has happened and research methods for improving their practices," Cross explained.

He added that the majority of the community access-point facilities had been established in rural communities across the island, pointing out that these facilities could be gateways for even more rural development.

Internet for development

"What is happening nowadays is there [are] opportunities for community development where international agencies will want to assist communities, but they need to have access to the Internet. For example, there could be training programmes for persons to develop their technological skills.

"If the computer access points are being used appropriately, it could well be used for that training. And we are going to develop some training programmes, and we are going into the community to train the administrators and the users because we really want to encourage everybody to make use of the access because the benefits are only limited by the human mind, which is unlimited," Cross told Rural Express.

He went on: "We have two criteria that we look for when we asses a community: There must be a safe and sound facility to house the equipment, and we also assess availability of local leadership because once the facility is established, it is administered by the local leadership. We want to ensure that the facility is sustained because we don't want to commence a facility and six months down the road we find the computers are gathering dust. We want them to be used."