Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr. has said that there can be no success in the agriculture and fisheries industry without collaborative efforts or the empowerment of farmers and their organisations.
“I’ve learned in the last year that particularly in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, we need strong collaboration. There is no success in this industry without working together,” he said, emphasising that there should be an effort to empower farmers and their organisations through the creation of social capital.
Charles Jr was speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day BOND Learning Guide for Trainers Workshop hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at the Medallion Hall hotel in St. Andrew on Monday (May 22).
The BOND approach encourages farmers and their groups to form associations to facilitate information exchange and benefit from learning experiences and effective practices that advance sustainable agriculture.
Held under the theme, “Empowering Farmers and their Organizations through the Creation of Social Capital”, the multi-day training is being coordinated by the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers (JNRWP).
According to the FAO, “social capital is a key factor that concerns the ability of people to cooperate for common goals.” They also state that “recognising the fundamental role that social capital plays for healthy and sustainable organisations, stressing that encouraging farmers and their groups to form associations or federations enhances their capacities to learn from each other, exchange reliable information about what works and what does not work, and monitor the accountability of their members.”
In his message, Charles Jr said that he believes that the focus on social capital is critical, stating that “it speaks as a function to a set of shared values which we must have if we are going to coordinate and be a farming family in our country.” He also noted that social capital will allow farmers, fishers, and their stakeholders to work together in order to achieve the shared vision and the shared goal.
The Minister expressed how pleased he was that the Ministry’s strategic partners continue to show the relevance of collaboration, highlighting the importance of “bond learning, bridging, working together, ensuring that farmers are empowered to work amongst themselves, to work across farms and to work with farms and external stakeholders, and to build up the capacity for us as a country to advance a sustainable and a resilient sector.”
“When I speak to persons in the sector, you get a sense that people are hungry for agriculture to explode. One of the ways for us to achieve our goals, to achieve and unlock the potential, and improve is to train and to implore our farmers to make sure that they understand the critical importance of organising their operation, of coordinating how they work,” he added.
For his part, Dr. Crispim Moreira, FAO Representative for Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize, reiterated Charles Jr and said that farmers’ organisations play a vital role in society.
“You are the backbone of our agricultural sector, working tirelessly to feed communities, preserve traditional knowledge, and contribute to overall economic development. However, individual farmers face
numerous challenges that can hinder their progress. That’s where the strength of organisations lies,” he said.
“This intangible asset [building social capital] will enable you to achieve more together than you could as individuals. By building social capital, your organisations can access resources, expertise, and support, enabling them to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Through this BOND learning activity, farmers’ organisations will acquire the tools and strategies to effectively strengthen their networks and alliances. By doing so, they will experience a range of benefits,” he added.
Charles Jr. highlighted one of the benefits of farmers organising and collaborating by encouraging them to get register with Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) so that they may have access to the benefits.
“Organise yourself so that farms that are contiguous or connected doesn’t work against each other. Create a focus on ensuring that what you’re doing is linked from the start,” he said.
In a similar vein, Moreira highlighted that increased collaboration among farmers will foster innovation and best practices within the agricultural community, building robust networks and alliances will enhance the collective bargaining power of farmers’ organisations.
Farmers’ organisations taking part in the training are: the New Era Farmers Benevolent Society, Jamaica Coffee Growers Association, Jamaica Cocoa Farmers Association, Ebony Park Agro Cooperative Society, and the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers.
The BOND workshop targets beneficiaries under the Farmers Organization for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (FO4ACP) programme.
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