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Jamaica’s food security a sham

FOR years we have heard the rhetoric of different factions of the agriculture sector talk about food security. But is Jamaica’s food security getting better or worse? This is surely a question for the pundits to answer honestly.

However, the kernel of food security is that all people should have access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences. However, with the huge food import bill, rising cost of food, and increased levels of poverty, are we in a regressive mode on the trek to food security or I am just not seeing the vision?

Food security has implications for national security and productivity, and as such is not a matter to pussyfoot around. Given the context, a very straightforward question is, are we a food-secure or insecure nation? Anecdotally, I believe the pendulum is predominant in the insecure corner. This has coerced my imagination to concede that a food security effort in Jamaica is a notorious sham.

Agriculture education is the most important step towards food security. However, agriculture education in Jamaica, and by extension the Caribbean, is an utter disgrace. The training received in high schools and at the tertiary levels do very little to cultivate a mindset to bring about radical management and innovative practices necessary to help transform the sector. Most of the institutions lack proper lab facilities for research in areas such as tissue culture, genetics, biotechnology, and microbiology. With those realities one would not be alarmed that, despite the infamous Blue Mountain Coffee globally, the last time an improved variety of coffee was introduced was the 1980s. Yet the inferior varieties planned are plagued by leaf rust disease, which causes significant loss in revenues to both small and large farmers yearly. Yet we boast of our colleges, universities and government research such as Bodles and Organe River research stations.

There are also inadequate technical people with expertise to guide students into groundbreaking and applied research. In fact, most of our institutions still rely heavily on the cutlass, fork and hoe to teach students about agricultural practices. Very few students ever get exposed to in-depth understanding of the science behind things like plant and animal breeding, hydroponics, greenhouse technology, and advances in areas like poultry and pig rearing, which is one of the reasons Jamaica’s food security hangs in the wind and our competitiveness index dwindles

As food security becomes more feted with rhetoric and lip service, it is unfortunate that a basic food item such as egg is taxed and the chicken is allowed to have ‘free rein’. Further, we have gone silent on the production of liquid eggs for the service and productive sectors that utilise a vast amount of liquid eggs. Is importing the way out?

We cannot be food secure when milk and eggs are not part of our school-feeding programme. A child’s brain cannot be truly developed on bag juice or syrup. We cannot be secure when a staple crop like cassava is just used to advance the interest of a select few. A versatile crop such as cassava can be grown on marginal lands, can be used in the production of pig, chicken and other animal feed as a substitution for corn. This can be achieved with the right technology and basic agronomic principles used in other parts of the world, like Brazil and Africa. Farmers can easily get an average of 70 tonnes of cassava to the hectare than the 20 tonnes they get currently on an average in Jamaica.

We cannot be food secure when agencies such as RADA are sending one extension officer to cover an area with 500 farmers. We cannot be food secure when many youth in our rural communities sit on the corner when a vast amount of land sits idle. If we are serious about rural development and growth in agriculture can we start engaging these youth?

We cannot be food secure when we boast about exporting banana at the expense of our farmers. We need to start focusing on local consumption of ripe bananas, forge partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education and local banana producers so that bananas are in every school in Jamaica. Initiatives such as this will benefit students and boost production, and farmers will get a better return.

How about an agriculture stock exchange? We have coffee and yam to start with. We can start producing again. All we need is the political will and commitment from all stakeholders. Failure to take radical and useful approach will result in both food and national insecurity.

Jamaica is 1st in Caribbean to name human trafficking monitor

Jamaica became on Tuesday the first Caribbean country to appoint a national rapporteur on human trafficking.

The Ministry of National Security announced that Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison will fill the new post.

The Cabinet approved Gordon Harrison’s designation to “enhance Jamaica’s anti-trafficking profile and exhibits the seriousness with which the government of Jamaica regards this issue,” the ministry said in a statement.

One of the primary functions of the national rapporteur will be to create a more objective reporting system on the issue.

Gordon Harrison will have the authority to obtain from the relevant authorities, including the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Jamaica Constabulary Force, any information necessary to carry out her duties.

She is expected to conduct independent investigations of reports of alleged instances of human trafficking as the need arises, to report on human rights violations and to provide an analytical overview of the situation in trafficking in an annual report to the government.

Gordon Harrison, an attorney, was appointed as Children’s Advocate in January 2012. Before that, she worked as deputy director of the DPP.

Jamaica want to recruit Tottenham’s Danny Rose, Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon and Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom ahead of Copa America

Danny Rose heads a list of English-based players that Jamaica are keen to recruit for this summer’s Copa America.

The Tottenham defender, who qualifies for Jamaica through his grandfather, would have the chance to play senior international football against Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in the group stages of the competition, which will be held in Chile in June and July.

This is the South American equivalent of the European Championships, with Mexico and Jamaica also invited to this edition.

Rose has represented England at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 level, as well as playing for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics but has never won a senior cap. Standard Sport understands intermediaries have been attempting to make contact with Rose to discuss playing for Jamaica. Although the 24-year-old was named in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the matches against Norway and Switzerland earlier this season, he did not make it on to the pitch and has not been selected since. Jamaica are keen to explore English football in greater depth to try to create a stronger squad, first for the Copa America, but then to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in three years’ time.

The Caribbean side reached the finals in France in 1998, with their squad containing players like Robbie Earle, Frank Sinclair and Marcus Gayle, who had substantial experience in the English top flight.

Under German coach Winfried Schaefer, who led Cameroon to Africa Cup of Nations success in 2002, Jamaica believe they can return to that level and plan to speak to many of the eligible players in England.

Jason Puncheon, the Crystal Palace winger, is also believed to be on the radar along with Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom, who is on loan at West Brom. Rose has been playing regularly for Spurs at left-back and his good form puts him in contention for England — although the man in question believes he has little chance of making the squad for the fixtures against Lithuania and Italy later this month.

Speaking to Standard Sport recently, Rose said: “I’m going to be honest: I don’t see myself anywhere near the international squad. It’s just how it is.

“Leighton Baines is quite rightly the first choice, then Ryan Bertrand is doing very well at Southampton. Kieran Gibbs and Luke Shaw are ahead of me, too, and I’m a big fan of Aaron Cresswell at West Ham.

“I don’t see myself anywhere near. I was there at the start of the season through other people’s injuries. It doesn’t bother me. Tottenham is my top priority and as long as I do well for them I’ll be very happy.

“Am I playing well enough to be in the squad? I’m not sure. I know I’m more consistent than last season, when I was a bit hit and miss, and I’m trying to put that right.

“I can do that by limiting the mistakes I make or trying to chip in with a goal or an assist here and there, so I’ve improved from last season. If I can get better season after season, then I will have a good career.”

Report: Gay man stoned to death in Jamaica

Video has emerged reportedly showing the bloodied body of a gay Jamaican man who it is claimed was stoned to death.

The video was uploaded and then removed from YouTube last week. Dwayne Brown, a Jamaican gay rights campaigner living in New York City, embedded the video on his blog Minority-Insight.

Mr Brown wrote: “Members of the Jamaican LGBT community are deeply sadden [sic] and heartbroken by the gruesome public execution of this young man in the streets of Jamaica.

“The video brought tears to my eyes and causes anger to permeate my heart.

“Many believe that all hopes for tolerance and respect for LGBT lives in Jamaica was shattered. Fear currently ripples through the entire community.”

In the video, which PinkNews has decided not to publish, the young man lies motionless and bloodstained on the ground.

Anti-gay slurs, including the phrase “batty man” are repeatedly shouted by a man off camera, along with homophobic chants from other members of the crowd.

Unconfirmed social media reports suggest the youth was stoned in Montego Bay and it is believed to have happened in the last few weeks.

Thieves break into graves at May Pen Cemetery

Members of the Mt Carmel Ebenezer Courts of Praise Ministry were left chanting the blood of Jesus against hoodlums who yesterday smashed open the tomb of one of their church sisters in an attempt to steal its valuables at the May Pen Cemetery.

May Brown Patterson, born on April 10, 1935, was laid to rest last Sunday. But little over a week after relatives closed her coffin, it was found outside its tomb, which was smashed open, about 7:45 yesterday morning, the police said. The hoodlums tried to open another grave but were unsuccessful.

“This is total slackness! This woman was a senior in our church. Her family and everybody came down and buried her last Sunday, and now we come see the woman grave look like this. This grave was well tiled … look at it now. Why would someone do that?” lamented Nadine Powell, who, along with church sister, Sophia Miller, looked on as cemetery labourers used blocks to repair the broken end of the tomb.

“It was her wish to be buried here; her mother is here, her father, brothers and sisters are here, and she asked to be buried here. We don’t expect to come and see the woman’s casket outside on the ground in this manner. This was a woman of God,” continued Powell, condemning the perpetrators to hell.

Powell said one of Patterson’s daughters left the island about 3 o’clock yesterday morning after visiting for the funeral. “She not even reach home yet (Brooklyn), and now she must hear that them mash up har mother grave.”

Miller, in the meantime, criticised the authorities for the shabby state of the cemetery and its lack of perimeter fencing. “We need to talk to the mayor about this because you can’t have a cemetery like this and there is no fencing on it. This is why these things happen.”

Onlookers said that one perpetrator fled after gunmen from nearby communities along Spanish Town Road realised what was happening and started firing at him. The man ran into bushes, they claimed. Police, however, could not confirm reports that shots had been fired.

Instead, an inspector from the Kingston Western Division told The Gleaner that a passer-by saw a man disturbing the grave and then called the cops. By the time the police responded, the man had already fled. The inspector noted, however, that the Criminal Investigation Branch had already started investigating the incident.

unclear motive

Yesterday, John Cornwall, superintendent of cemeteries at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), said it was not clear what the hoodlums were after.

“Usually, we see these things happening at the older graves where they (perpetrators) break open the caskets in search for gold for the cash for gold. But I am not sure why they did this today, because this is one of the newer ones. Maybe they wanted the casket,” said Cornwall. “I am so embarrassed about this thing right now. Trust me.”

Cornwall declined to speak about the need for a perimeter fence, directing the news team to the KSAC for an official comment on that issue.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health were also on site to ensure that there were no health issues arising from the incident.

“The casket was not opened, so thus far it doesn’t seem there is any real health concerns. We are just here to ensure that it is closed before we leave,” said a male representative.