The destructive Beet Army Worm pest outbreak took place periodically from 2009 – 2011 in the Flagaman, Pispah and surrounding districts of St. South Elizabeth affecting both onion and escallion farmers. Despite numerous attempts to control the outbreak, there was a devastating re-emergence in 2012 which resulted in farmers losing millions of dollars worth of produce.
The Late Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke was instrumental in ensuring that farmers were given the necessary training to be able to effectively combat the pest. In November, 2013 a two-year project entitled "Strengthening a National Beet Armyworm Programme" was established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries along with partners to include the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change Ja REEACH project).
In August 2013, the first graduating group from this programme consisted of 22 lead farmers, also from St. Elizabeth, and seven Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) facilitators.
On September 11, 2014, an official Graduation Ceremony was celebrated where one hundred and fifty (150) farmers were trained with the assistance of twelve community based lead farmers, the RADA and (Ja REEACH) technical teams. These farmers (to include women and youth) were given the opportunity to identify, treat and combat one of the most difficult pest, the beet army worm.
During the Ceremony, Mr. Donald Robinson, RADA Zonal Director, Western Zone expounded on the Farmer Field School Training Method which was used during the training programme. This was described as a learning by doing method,A practical approach that allows farmers, researchers and technical experts to collaborate and share knowledge. This group approach to extension delivery has therefore enabled effective technological transfer and improves on-farm crop management.
In congratulating the farmers the Guest Speaker for the Ceremony, Mr. Dermon Spence, Chief Technical Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries also encouraged them to impart the knowledge gained to other farmers in order to have a multiplier effect and allow the benefits to extend from individuals to farming communities.
He also pledged that the Ministry stands ready to facilitate the farmers of Jamaica to allow continued growth within the sector and by extension, the nation