ST THOMAS, Jamaica — The National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) says 10,000 coffee suckers have been distributed to 100 farmers in St Thomas as part of a sustainable livelihood programme.
In a release today, NEPA said that farmers in the Windsor Forest and Richmond Gap communities in recently benefited from the seedling distribution as part of a 13-week-in-field practical land husbandry training called Farmer Field School.
Conducted under the tutelage of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Farmer Field School programme teaches farmers how to implement climate smart land management techniques to protect their soil, reduce erosion and improve productivity.
Nelsa English-Johnson, Yallahs-Hope Watershed Project Manager said while January has not traditionally been known for planting coffee, the consistent rains being experienced by the island makes it the perfect time to plant.
“The recent rains though causing damage in parts of the island, have provided the best suitable conditions for coffee farmers. The suckers will be carefully monitored by NEPA and RADA to ensure the farmers practice the best land husbandry techniques they’ve been learning to reduce soil erosion,” English-Johnson said.
The coffee seedlings were purchased from the Wallenford Coffee Company which is also volunteering to provide technical assistance to the farmers to ensure the plants are properly managed to maturity.
The Yallahs River and Hope River watershed management units, account for approximately seven per cent of the island’s agricultural produce and are home to the world renowned Blue Mountain Coffee and the source of 42 per cent of the potable water supplying the Kingston Metropolitan Area, Yallahs and its environs.
The recent coffee distribution brings to a total 14,100 coffee, fruit and timber seedlings which have been provided to farmers in St Andrew and St Thomas communities. The effort is aimed at restoring some 520-hectares of the degraded lands within the watersheds by having the farmers implement agro-forestry practices on their farms.
NEPA added that a further 200 farmers, who are currently enrolled in new Farmer Field Schools will soon benefit from similar tree distributions and it will next month begin to target private land owners to volunteer their lands towards the agro-forestry goal for land restoration and biodiversity enhancement.