Approximately 150 farmers from the parish of St. Elizabeth have successfully completed a nine-week training course on Beet Armyworm Integrated Pest Management, aimed at building local capacity to manage the pest.
The training was co-ordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries under its Strengthening a National Beet Armyworm Programme, which is a two-year project being funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at a cost of approximately US$213,000. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing technical assistance.
All the participants received certificates at a graduation ceremony held on September 11, at the Junction Guest House in St. Elizabeth.
Addressing the ceremony, Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dermon Spence, said the farmers were the second batch trained, with the first group of 22 farmers trained in 2013.
He said the training exercise is a “significant achievement” in the Ministry’s efforts to combat the Beet Armyworm, which affects crops such as onion and escallion.
Pointing out that St. Elizabeth is where the Beet Armyworm “heralded its presence in a most devastating way,” Mr. Dermon said the pest poses a threat to onion production in the parish.
“This parish traditionally produce some 85 per cent of local onion and it was particularly hard hit by the pest…onion is one of our biggest import crops, so it poses a threat to the Government’s import substitution,” he noted.
Mr. Dermon said that the training programme being implemented is already reaping dividends, as figures from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) show that some hard hit crops are on the rebound in terms of production levels.
He said that the Ministry is looking forward to even greater success in managing and controlling the Beet Armyworm, as the knowledge imparted to the farmers spreads throughout the farming community.