Farmers in a number of bauxite mining communities are to benefit from greenhouse technologies, through a $19- million project — a collaboration between the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI).
The project involves conversion of mined-out lands to water reservoirs to be used for irrigation, where greenhouses are constructed for agricultural production, benefitting some 160 farmers who will pass on the technology to surrounding communities in St Elizabeth, Manchester and St Ann.
"It is going to work very well, and we are working hard towards it," said Angela Lawrence, a farmer from Manchester. She said that based on the training that was provided for the participants in the project, farming in the area will improve.
Chairman of the Alpart Community Council in St Elizabeth, Lenworth Blake, said he foresees self-sufficiency for the beneficiary communities, as well as farmers reaping long-term benefits in the technologies that are to be passed on from the high-tech farming project.
“The greenhouses are going to be built in the Myersville area; the ponds are now being put in and it is going to mean a significant economic benefit to a lot of people. After the 20 farmers have been equipped with the technology they will go back to their respective districts and teach other farmers how greenhouse management is done. More farmers will be independent,” said Blake.
One of the aims of the project is to empower communities which have bauxite operations, so that the residents can have sustainable income in the period called "life after bauxite"
Welcoming the project, Mayor of Mandeville Councillor Brenda Ramsey said given the competing interests for land in housing development, and other necessities, it was crucial that modern technology be used for agricultural production.
The mayor says mined-out lands could be used for farming and water harvesting, and the project would help the parish to achieve an economic turnaround. “Putting mined-out lands to productive and profitable use is a critical aspect of land management in the bauxite alumina industry. This project along with our Agro Parks, will give a new life to farming in Manchester,” Ramsey said.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson said the investment was one of the largest made in rural communities in Jamaica, and the farmers have received a rare opportunity that they must protect.
“With the assistance provided by JBI and JSIF, including the critical protection from drought, the training, the relevant infrastructure, you have a responsibility to ensure that you take care of the greenhouses. Manage your production and business transactions diligently,” the State Minister told the farmers at a function in Manchester.