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The Jamaican saying, “before good food waste, mek belly buss” highlights a level of consciousness among Jamaicans that food waste is not a good thing. However, this mainly refers to food bought at restaurants or prepared at home. Did you know that approximately 30 per cent of agricultural output in Jamaica is lost each year? This is mainly due to a lack of post-harvest storage facilities and inadequate transportation to take products to market. This loss is estimated to be $7 billion annually. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, "if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest carbon emitter, after the United States and China". This reality has driven one group to start making small steps to be a part of the solution.

The Sawyers Local Forest Management Committee (LFMC) Benevolent Society in Trelawny recently received a donation of a solar dehydrator from Food for the Poor Jamaica that will be used to create products such as peppered flakes from whatever excess they have from their greenhouse and other agroforestry plots.

“The group has done training in permaculture, which looks at more holistic outputs in terms of how agriculture is viewed, and this is just one of those ways. Instead of having spoilage in anything, we are looking at ways they can be used and how we can contribute to food security,” shared Tamara Nicholson, Rural Sociologist at the Forestry Department who works with LFMCs in the western region of the island.

Chairman of the Sawyers LFMC, Toussaint Brown, says the group is grateful for the donation as they are always looking to explore activities that move away from the typical practices within the community.

“In light of climate change, we want to show farmers how they can shift from the whole cultural activity of planting just yams, and we are happy to be leading by example with the new products that we will be creating from our excess produce such as sweet peppers, scotch bonnet peppers and pineapples,” Mr. Brown said.

To further reduce food waste, the group has purchased two vehicles, one through funding from the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) and the other through the alternative livelihood project component of the European Union Budget Support Programme for the forest sector. These will be used to transport produce for sale.

Meanwhile, the group is seeking to build food security in several communities in Trelawny by providing sources of alternative livelihood where persons can earn an income to economically access sufficient, safe and nutritious food. 

Through funding from IAF, the group will seek to start an egg production business which will see (8) women from the community employed.  “For some women, when they get to a certain age, they think they can only be housewives, and so through this project, we’ll be getting about 250-layer chickens and providing training for these women in how to take care of the chickens so they can earn an income,” Mr. Brown shared. 

Since 2018, 30 persons have been directly employed by the group, but hundreds more have received training and have since started businesses of their own. 

“We got a project from the Digicel Foundation, and we established 60 colonies of bees. We then got another project from Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and expanded our apiculture and trained over 25 new beekeepers from Swayers, Alps, Ulster Spring, Blagrove Drive, Barnstable, Brompton and Clark’s Town,” he said.

The group now has five (5) apiaries and over 130 colonies. Additionally, persons who have been trained have also set up their own colonies.

Through funding from the GEF, the Group also procured and retrofitted a container that is now used as a farm store within the community. This gives farmers easy access to farm tools and fertilisers which are sold at a cheaper rate.

Aside from these money-making ventures, the group also seeks to cater to the basic needs of the communities and recently handed over forty-seven (47) 650-gallon water tanks to persons in the community.

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