Farmers challenged to achieve economic independence
JESúS BAGUENA, head of operations, European Union Delegation has challenged local farmers to use the assistance provided under the European Union (EU) Banana Support Programme to achieve economic independence.
Addressing last Thursday's launch of the Economic Diversification Programme for Banana Producing Parishes in Somerset, St Thomas, he told beneficiaries: "I think you should see this support as a great chance for you to learn to do and stand on your own."
Baguena added: "I believe that this is what you want, and that would be the day when you do not need the EU or the ministry. At the same time, I will promise that you will not stand alone, it is a combination of both. It is not a question of creating a dependency, but a question offering you the opportunities to access the market, sell your products and be your own boss."
Under the programme, which is being implemented by Food For The Poor, 40 former banana farmers in Esher, St Mary, and Somerset, St Thomas, are receiving assistance in setting up alternative income-generating projects in the areas of goat rearing, apiculture and Scotch bonnet pepper cultivation. With holdings ranging from 0.4 hectare to 2.4 hectares in size, the beneficiaries have been provided with materials, training and technical and marketing support
The project, which started in January, will run for 16 months, at which time the projects should be at a sustainable level, in keeping with the long-term aim of improving access to education and training, rehabilitate small social and economic infrastructure and promote economic activities by organising the communities and linking production with technological developments and market requirements.
It is anticipated that these alternative new products will combine to generate a greater profit per hectare than earned through the traditional harvesting of bananas. The evolution from traditional farming methodology will also require a paradigm shift in the area of how the farmers market their produce.
Traditional markets begin at the farm gate or are taken to the markets to be sold by a farmer in a stall. This programme action will propose alternative marketing systems that will also help increase the return on the products. All of these actions should improve the farmers' profits by having a better range of products and working with appropriate marketing systems.
This project is in keeping with the ongoing assistance provided by the EU to the local banana industry and farmers affected by the combination of challenges, which effectively led to its demise.
Since 1996 the EU has provided more than J$4 billion or more than €42 million to the local banana industry, with another J$500 million (€4.73 million) slated to be disbursed in January 2013 when the Banana Accompanying Measures come into effect.