by Ms Tamisha Lee, President, Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers, for Jamaica-Gleaner Newspaper
We are living in turbulent times where no one knows when we will see the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. The critical need to ensure our food security and nutrition brings into sharp focus the importance of our agricultural sector and the treatment of our farmers.
Even the blind can see that our farmers face a heavy burden as they strive to maintain our food security and nutrition. It is therefore crucial that our farmers are given full and extensive support in this endeavour. As we seek to ensure development and sustainability of our ageing farming population, we will need to continue to attract more women and youth, which requires agriculture to foster a much different look than what it has today.
Indeed, the Government must be commended for providing a stimulus package to help cushion the fallout in the economy from the effects and impact of the deadly virus. The CARE package is a step in the right direction, but it’s treatment of our farmers appears somewhat uncaring. There is no component that specifically speaks to supporting farmers. While many other sectors are recognised, farmers are left to apply for compassionate grants, having to choose the option of an informal worker.
Farming is one of Jamaica’s oldest and noblest of professions and deserves the same respect as any other sector. I am therefore appealing to the minister of finance to revisit the CARE package and inject some much-warranted care into it on behalf of farmers.
I am aware that the MICAF has purchased excess produce from some farmers. Further details have so far been difficult to glean as to how the vast majority of our smallholder farmers, especially our rural women, will benefit.
This is a perfect opportunity to ensure our rural women have equal access to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive. This pandemic has presented us with the chance to reset the button on how we treat agriculture in Jamaica. Let us not waste that opportunity.