RADA taking creative route
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU: DONOVAN STANBERRY, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, has said the with an impossible ratio of 100 Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) officers to 220,000 farmers in Jamaica, new and innovative ways must be employed to provide the technical support to the farming communities.
"We have to look on RADA based on the resources they have and the enormity of the task of servicing 220,000 farmers with 100 officers," Stanberry told The Gleaner in a recent interview. "It will always be a difficult task for a RADA man to reach every single farmer."
"With 100 officers visiting a farm every day for the 365 days of the year, it will take around three years to get around to every farmer," said Stanberry. "... so we are now employing more innovative ways of reaching them, by training a group of farmers, putting the technology in their hands, so they, in turn, can go and train their colleagues... . Only training will solve the problem."
In his presentation during the 2014/2015 Budget Debate, the late Roger Clarke, then minister of agriculture, announced an increase in allocation to RADA from J$936 million in 2013/2014 to just over J$1 billion for the current year.
Clarke also stated that his ministry was re-inventing the concept of extension by infusing a greater level of technology in the provision of extension services so that the necessary support would be in place to advise and assist cultivators, despite a shortage of personnel.
According to Stanberry, a recent nine-week training course on Beet Armyworm Integrated Pest Management, for some 150 farmers in St Elizabeth is just one of many such programmes that will be implemented by the ministry to strengthen the management capacity of the farming community.
The training was coordinated under a two-year project being funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization at a cost of approximately US$213,000.