Hillside farmers in the community of Georgia in St Thomas are having a hard time in the production and transportation of their crops.
Among the issues being faced are lack of proper irrigation, impassable roadways and not enough readily available funding to advance their trade.
Mentioning the agriculture ministry’s earlier promise to expand the footprint of drip irrigation to offset losses of farmers across the country, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) in St Thomas, Charlton Brown, shared his hope that farmers living in Georgia will benefit from the programme.
He said they are unable to help themselves to better their output, including the establishment of a proper irrigation system, because they do not have the money to do so nor reasonable access to financing.
NO FINANCIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR FARMERS
Sharing his frustration with the process of getting a loan as a farmer, Brown said, “When you go to the bank they’re asking you how much strands a grey hair in your head, and the interest rate nuh feasible for farmers. There are many opportunities out there where financing is concerned, but not for farmers. They’re touting that we are the backbone of the country, but when you assess the situation we have to wonder if this is true because if farmers go to any of those institutions they are coming back home empty-handed. We need the Government to sort out something for us where we can have better and easier access to funding so we can help we self and boost production.”
And while the intent is to indeed boost production, Brown lamented what he referred to as an even bigger problem, the deplorable road conditions which they have to navigate to get their products to the market.
He told The Gleaner that it has caused farmers in Georgia much loss over the years.
Joining the conversation, farmer Charles Mullings remembered a time when they could have transported their produce from the farms to the market with little to no issue.
“In the earlier days, there were roads taking you right through the various areas that we use as farms. Although it is hillside farms, those areas were major banana-producing areas. All of those roads are now dormant. One of the areas has been cut off for the past maybe three years. We’ve sought help but nothing has materialised. Once upon a time a donkey could pass, but now it’s totally cut off and it’s a major area with about 15 farmers and with up to 2,000 pounds of onion coming from there, but it all has to come down on their heads. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Mullings, who sits on the JAS board and plays a vital part in the development of the community, bemoaned what he said has become a genuine disinterest of young people in the trade despite growing up in a farming community.
“There is a free skills-training programme going on near the community for unattached youths and nobody applied for agriculture. This is because how they see it’s being done here. All they see are the farmers coming in with hundreds of pounds of products on their heads, no road to transport it and little to no market since we’re not in a tourist area,” he shared.
However, Mullings believes that the bitter taste of agriculture can be sweetened in the mouths of the younger generation in Georgia if the Government addresses the farmers’ road and water concerns, and also invests in agro-processing in the area, which would broaden the market they serve.