WIDESPREAD unemployment and a lack of male presence in some households in Jeffrey Town, St Mary, drove the idea of a women’s group, the backbone of Jet Town Products, to fruition four years ago.
The group, a subsection of Jeffrey Town Farmers’ Association (JTFA), was formed to address, specifically, the issues women faced in the community, group head Ivy Gordon has said.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday, during a visit to the community, Gordon noted that life was difficult for several of the women now employed at Jet Town Products, the business which came about as part of the farmers’ association’s drive to ensure food sustainability in the country.
“We said within the farmers’ group let us try and generate income for ourselves, and so we started with our fields growing a women’s plant that developed into the plot where we grow potatoes — both Irish and sweet potatoes. We came together because we needed something to help improve [the lives of] a lot of the local women. Then, we worked together on the sweet potato pudding mix. The group is not because we have anything against men, but we had to do something for ourselves,” Gordon said.
There are 10 women in the group, but six are employed at Jet Town Products.
“Some had no fathers for their children or didn’t have the necessary support from their fathers. They had no work or steady income that they could boost the livelihood of their family. You know this single parent thing is very hard. Those are the issues, sending the children to school; it’s really a livelihood issue. There are absent fathers and insufficient incomes to be able to send the children to school every day, to be able to provide sufficient nutrition for them. Belly full is one thing but sufficient nutrition is something else.
“Jet Town Products is the most important thing we have been able to build together to improve the lot of the women in our community. Women can plant sweet potatoes. It’s not as arduous as Irish potatoes or tomatoes and those kinds of things. It’s something they can plant, it’s something they can reap. Can you imagine a community like Jeffrey Town where 30, 40 women are planting sweet potatoes and maybe 10 or 20 women are working in the factory? It means that our community will be better off. That’s the vision behind the product,” said Gordon.