In an effort to engage the Diaspora in Jamaica’s agricultural development, the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF) recently formed an Agriculture Committee.
This group will collaborate with the government on initiatives to help reduce Jamaica’s US$1B import food bill and create a globally competitive industry as outlined in Vision 2030. The main areas of focus will be facilitating market linkages, investments and capacity building/technology transfers.
Jamaica has already made significant strides toward developing its agricultural potential, including its goal of creating nine agro-parks, seven of which have already been established. Outputs from this venture will stabilize the agricultural supply chain, increase competitive exports of selected crops and create employment for over 5,000 persons when fully implemented.
The parks, which are strategically located across the island to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, operate under a tripartite arrangement with government, providing pre-production infrastructure such as clearing land and irrigation, investors/farmers and private entities who will market these crops. The agro-parks have already begun to show success, as evident by the 1.4 per cent growth in real GDP in the last quarter of 2013, which was largely attributed to the impact of the parks.
Due to this initiative and the strengthening of other programs such as the “Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow” program, Jamaica’s agricultural sector is positioned to make significant gains in contributing to the nation’s economic recovery. The Agricultural Committee is working towards supporting these efforts while encouraging new opportunities from the community.
The JDCF now has fully operational Education and Health Committees which support initiatives in these two sectors and the Agriculture Committee will operate under a similar framework, i.e. through public-private sector partnerships. At a health conference held recently in Toronto, Professor Neville Ying, Executive Director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, noted that much will be obtained from the synergies between these interest groups and their counterparts in Jamaica. For example, in 2013 Jamaica hosted 192 medical missions and realized savings of up to US$990,000 for pharmaceuticals and other medications.
It is widely acknowledged that a healthy population is critical to nation building, and to this end the Jamaican government has placed priority on improving universal access to primary health care. Public-private sector partnerships, such as the JDCF’s sector-focused committees, are essential to achieving these objectives. The Agriculture Committee will also leverage connections with Canadian entities to create strategic partnerships as a critical source of technical expertise for projects.
Jamaicans all over the world have a great love for their homeland and there is a growing appreciation for their contribution to the Jamaican economy – whether it is through the US$2B in remittances each year, donations (monetary and in kind) from hundreds of alma maters supporting their “old school”, or revenues from the 1.8 million first, second and third-generation Jamaicans who visit the homeland on an annual basis.
Given their role in supporting Jamaica’s economic development, the government has put in place various mechanisms to maximize the contributions of Diaspora organizations in the U.S., UK, Canada and other countries. This will make it easier for the Agriculture (and other) Committees to channel assistance to projects in Jamaica while ensuring greater accountability on the part of recipients.
The Agriculture Committee invites persons who are interested in starting an agriculture venture or willing to serve on the Committee to send an Expression of Interest to: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Director of Agriculture at 416-857-8867.