The strategic direction of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for 2015 will be capacity building of its staff and realigning the agency to become more technical in its operations; improve crop and livestock production; and encourage new entrants to the sector, with greater focus on women and youth.
This was stated by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RADA, Lenworth Fulton, when he addressed a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on February 10.
“Our aim is to improve agricultural production and productivity in Jamaica, therefore we work with other agencies, such as the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), Jamaica 4-H Clubs, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and other agencies that fall under the Ministry of Agriculture, to ensure that farmers get the critical support that they need,” Mr. Fulton said.
“We are heavily involved in training of staff and farmers and we are the major implementers of projects, such as the climate adaptation and the drought mitigation projects,” he added.
The CEO said that RADA also assists farmers with marketing intelligence and extension services.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fulton said the agency had a very serious challenge last year with the drought, and that with government assistance, $50 million was made available to farmers, of which $20 million was spent on a system to develop a proper water source through rain water harvesting.
He further noted that $30 million was spent on the open field operations, which assisted farmers who had started to produce and were struggling. They were assisted with tools, land preparation and seedlings.
“That is why we were able to bounce back from the drought and produce enough vegetables and ground provision by the latter part of 2014,” the CEO said.
With over 170,000 registered farmers, 98 extension officers, 60 agricultural assistants, 14 marketing officers, 13 social services and home economics officers and five livestock officers, RADA is set to continue its role as Jamaica’s chief agricultural extension and rural development agency, providing services such as land husbandry, plant health and safety, post harvest techniques and on-farm irrigation.