Red Stripe invests in cassava training
MUCH OF the news about Red Stripe's multimillion-dollar investment in a processing plant to extract starch from cassava has centred on the Brazilian-built facility yet to be imported and the cassava cultivation that will provide the raw material.
However, the human resource investment by way of Project Growth, the agriculture-training component of the Diageo Learning for Life Programme, is very much integral to the overall success of the project.
Under a nine-week programme, certified by the HEART Trust/NTA, almost 30 eager youngsters are being trained in the practical aspects of land preparation, soil science and all aspects of cassava cultivation all the way through to crop harvesting and post-harvesting care.
For LeVaughn Flynn, Red Stripe's senior communi-cations manager and project lead, this training is a key element of Red Stripe's agenda to substitute an imported ingredient with a local one in the brewing of its world-famous beer.
"In order to develop the best practices for cassava cultivation, we have to train the persons. So it was a great marriage to merge Project Growth with the Diageo Learning for Life Programme," Flynn told The Gleaner.
"We find young persons who need an opportunity, who are interested in agriculture and who want to learn - most importantly. Then after the training, they are employed to the farm and they form the workforce."
He added: "So CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute) is working on our behalf. They are contracted because they have the expertise, and as the project gets bigger, we are going to need more people and we are going to have farms all across the island. Getting up to 2,500 acres, that's where we're looking to be in the next three years."
The practical sessions are held at the Bernard Lodge farm where the trainees are involved in planting, caring and monitoring of the crop, at different stages. With Red Stripe acquiring 250 acres at Wallens in the parish, they will form the nucleus of the workforce for the St Catherine farm cluster.
In addition to a farmhouse which will be powered by solar energy, proper sanitary conveniences and other creature comforts are being put in place, setting the stage for proper working conditions.