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Canadian minister has high praises for irish potato project in J’ca Loop Jamaica

Canada’s Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, has expressed delight to see the sustainable impact of the Global Affairs Canada-funded Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) project on local farmers.

Sajjan, who recently toured project sites in Glastonbury, Trelawny; Cascade, St Ann and Coleyville in Manchester, said the project had exceeded his expectations.

“This project has exceeded my expectations. Just imagine what’s been accomplished by teaching people about using good quality seeds, and now they’re able to do second and third planting…rather than just purchasing them, they’re able to continue now to plant. Each farmer is doing this, so it’s creating a really good sustainable opportunity” he shared.

Implemented in Jamaica by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries from 2013 to 2017, Propel aided in the transformation of Jamaica’s local potato market with the implementation of an economic growth project.

Now, four years on, producers supported through project partners such as Glastonbury Purveyors Co. under the project are still earning livelihoods from their potato crops.

The PROPEL model was used to develop the Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean (SAC) project, which is also funded by the Government of Canada and is implemented by WUSC Caribbean in five countries: Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Suriname.

As a part of his visit to Jamaica, Minister Sajjan visited the Glastonbury Purveyors Co. in Manchester, where he met with owner Hugh Gentles.

Glastonbury was the first private sector firm in the PROPEL project the pilot the importation of improved quality planting materials and develop interlocking agreements with potato producers.

Partly as a consequence of the PROPEL-supported interventions in the potato market system, Jamaica reached its highest level of domestic production of potatoes in 2017 and has had no reported cases of crop failure due to seed quality since 2016.

From right: Canada’s Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, shares a light moment with Glastonbury Managing Director, Hugh Gentles, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Emina Tudakovic, Glastonbury Produce Manager, Sharon Shakespear and Executive Director, Caribbean Regional Development Program of Global Affairs Canada, Sharon Peake during a recent tour of PROPEL project sites.

Elite seeds were imported from the Netherlands and Canada based on farmers’ preferences and used for potato variety trials. This helped to satisfy 70 per cent of local Irish potato consumption.

Minister Sajjan also welcomed the project’s ability to promote sustainable living.

“I love that this project has been able to make a difference for Jamaica. One of the most notable changes is the fact that the country no longer depends solely on imports for products such as potatoes and is now able to produce enough to supply seventy per cent of the local market. That for me is a huge accomplishment in regard to sustainability. We want to see more jobs and more means for sustainable livelihoods,” he stated.

A farmer from Lucky Hill St Mary, Samuel Lynch, who benefitted from the project through Glastonbury Purveyors Co., attested to this impact, noting that his farming business has been able to employ several workers.

He received 20 bags of potatoes in year one of the project, then a hundred bags in the following two years.

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“Before benefiting from this initiative, I felt like giving up on planting Irish potatoes, but this project gave me hope and the push I needed to continue. So, I must say thanks to the WUSC Caribbean and Glastonbury team for the support because without them I would not be farming right now. I am now able to employ several workers who are also grateful for the help,” he said.

According to Minister Sajjan, the data and knowledge gained from the Jamaica potato programme will aid other regional efforts.

“Although a major part of my trip is to assess the work that our team has been doing here, we also want to use the opportunity to learn. Everything we’ve learned throughout this project will be a guide to how we implement similar projects not only in the wider Caribbean but also around the world,” the minister noted.

Meanwhile, WUSC Caribbean Director Doug Graham said PROPEL has provided important lessons for the current Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean (SAC) project, which addresses gaps in the previous one.

“When we were working on PROPEL, we realised that we weren’t offering enough support to women and youth in agriculture so we decided to implement our current SAC project as a means of addressing that oversight. The project looks at how we can create more opportunities for women and youth in agriculture by providing them with resources and access to knowledge of best agriculture practices that promote climate-smart agriculture”, he said.

The current Global Affairs Canada-funded SAC project in Jamaica supports women, youth and male producers in Jamaica to promote increased productivity and climate-smart agricultural practices in the herbs and spices and small ruminants (goats) market systems.

Today, the project credits sustained success to the active participation of stakeholders from across the potato market system, including government officials, research institutions, extension services, private sector input providers, buyers and buyer groups, storage providers, credit institutions, producers and producer groups.