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Growth & Jobs | Praedial theft stifling female farmers

Published:Tuesday | July 16, 2019 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson Harris/Gleaner Writer

Farming is a profession for which she has a passion, but after a series of praedial thefts this year, 65-year-old Andrea Dyer said she now lives her life in fear.

The St Ann resident is among several farmers whose farm has taken a hit in recent times, but she finds that the thieves are more likely to prey on female farmers because they are deemed to be the weaker sex.

“I planted one acre of onion, and before the onion matured, they looked like they were watching me, and just as the onion was ready for harvest, they went in there and reap it out, and I just said, “Lord, let it gwaan,” said Dyer, who went into farming full time when her father died in 1993.

She said she had spent $155,000 to plough the land. The value of her effort in planting the crop was much more than this.

Since that incident, Dyer’s farm has been robbed three more times, all in this year. On one occasion, the thieves stole 1,000 pounds of onions although she had started sleeping on her farm so that she could better monitor it.

“It affected me bad. I cried because I lost a lot. I spent so much and don’t make it back,” she said.

“Because we are women, they [thieves] think we are soft. The men will fight back, but we can’t fight back ,” she lamented.

Larceny costs

Praedial theft has been a perennial problem in Jamaica and is posing a huge challenge to the growth and development of the agricultural sector. Local data show that praedial larceny costs farmers $5 billion annually.

“It is a deterrent to the sustainability of the agricultural sector,” said president of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers Tamisha Lee.

“It is a widespread problem. We are making recommendations for our members to use ICT [information technology] to tackle the situation, but unfortunately, they do not have the resources to access the technology that is available like the drone,” she said.

Recommendations have been made to install cameras on farms as well to assist with monitoring.

“A lot of the times, they don’t even report the case because the police aren’t keen on the whole issue of praedial larceny because as you know, our country is facing a problem with murder, so that takes precedence,” said Lee.

“It is a huge problem, not only for female farmers, but, you know, female farmers are more vulnerable. Some of them have to stay on the farm at nights to watch and you know that is dangerous,” she said.

Dyer said the employment of security guards could help, but this might prove to be costly for some farmers.

She hopes that the Police High Command will consider improving the patrolling of farms so that farmers like her can feel more secure.

“With the praedial larceny, when you lose, the Government is not helping you. They are not doing nothing,” she said.