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Farmers encouraged to adopt business-like approach to soil management Loop Jamaica

Farmers are being encouraged to adopt a business-like approach to soil management in order to reduce waste and loss of this vital material.

This urging comes from State Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Franklyn Witter, who was delivering the main address during a World Soil Day event at the Ebony Park HEART Academy in Clarendon, on Monday.

“The soil is the genesis of the agricultural value chain. Without the soil, we would not be able to grow our food or produce and consume the value-added byproducts. It all starts with the soil, which means it should also start with the sustenance and management of healthy soils,” Witter said.

State Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Franklyn Witter (second right), is shown displays at the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) booth, mounted during a World Soil Day event at the Ebony Park HEART Academy in Clarendon, by Acting NIC Regional Systems Manager for Clarendon and Manchester, Fitzgerald Reid (left). Looking on (from second left) are Acting Senior Director in the Ministry’s Agricultural Land Management Division Pamela McKenzie and Programme Management and Monitoring Specialist, Food and Agriculture Organisation Jhannel Tomlinson. (Photos: JIS)

Against this background, he suggested that soil be regarded as an asset by farmers and other stakeholders.

Further, he said that more scientific methods to ensure the soil’s sustainability and resilience be practised and that science and technology be utilised to analyse soil nutrients and determine how these can be enhanced.

Witter underscored the ministry’s continued commitment to taking the necessary steps to ensure healthy soil and improve measures that will serve to enhance this as one of Jamaica’s major natural resources.

The state minister said the $50 million earmarked this year to provide 500 farmers with planting materials and agrochemicals to boost the production and productivity of onions is “also a testament to the ministry’s commitment to greater productivity that begins with soil management”.

Local agricultural crops have also been targeted in a series of capacity-building activities, such as workshops and field trips, aimed at promoting their incorporation in the value chain, thereby enhancing their contribution to the rural economy.

“This demonstrates how serious the ministry is [about] enabling the expanded knowledge, based on our farmers’ use of climate-smart agricultural practices, science and technology and established strategic partnerships, all on a spectrum that begins with the soil,” Witter emphasised.

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Additionally, a soil fertility mapping project has been established in collaboration with the Moroccan National Institute of Agricultural Research, which is being implemented through the Ministry’s Agricultural Land Management Division.

The project’s overarching aim is to assist farmers and other stakeholders in improving crop production performance, while protecting, maintaining and enhancing the available soil resources.

Witter also underscored that the ministry’s ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ campaign, which is intended to improve efficiency in the agricultural sector, must be “heavily contemplated” to pave the way forward for improved soil management.

World Soil Day is observed annually on December 5 to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being.

The theme for this year’s observation was ‘Soils, Where Food Begins’.