Friday, July 1, 2011

Jamaica: The Santoy Cooperative 5 Years Later

Since 2006, multiple Farmer to Farmer volunteers have traveled to Jamaica to assist the Santoy Farmers Cooperative with improved vegetable production, greenhouse design, and marketing. One team of multidisciplinary specialists – Cliff Keil (entomologist), Tom Evans (plant pathologist), Wallace Pill (soil scientist), and Ian McCann (irrigation specialist) – were among the first FTF volunteers to assist Santoy and have returned to Jamaica several times and have made a significant impact on the Cooperative. The team helped establish specific goals to help the farmers improve productivity and marketing strategies. During their most recent trip in 2011, the Farmer to Farmer team received a letter from Milton Murdock, leader of the cooperative, detailing the impact they’ve had over the last four years.

“Due to the involvement of this FTF team, the members of the Santoy Cooperative have benefited tremendously. At first, we were having difficulties growing certain crops due to limited knowledge in agriculture, but since their interaction, we have become fortified with technical, theoretical and practical information on greenhouse production.”
-Milton Murdock

Tom Evans and his team, over the course of several volunteer trips through Farmer to Farmer, held multiple training workshops which conveyed invaluable knowledge to the cooperative members regarding basic but effective farming methods, as well as the growth of microgreens, disease and pest prevention for Scotch Bonnet Pepper (a markedly difficult crop to grow) and much more. It is clear from Murdock’s letter that these training sessions were not only beneficial to the members present, but many others as well. Mr. Murdock, an agriculture science teacher, has been able to use the information he learned from the team to teach his students relevant information that they will be able to draw on in their own agribusiness ventures.

“The passion, hard work and dedication that the FTF team exerted was overwhelming. Due to the introduction of [microgreens] and other technical skills, we have gained access to the resort hotel market. We have our first contract with the Sandals Resort in Negril and are selling microgreens and sprouts to other high-end hotels and restaurants in Hanover, Westmorland and St. James Parishes. This has greatly increased our profitability and standard of living.”
-Milton Murdock

The determination shown by Mr. Murdock and the Santoy Cooperative, coupled with the technical assistance to Santoy over the years, has achieved the overarching goals of the USAID Farmer to Farmer Program: to strengthen agricultural institutions, increase agriculture sector productivity and profitability, and facilitate value chain development and market opportunities.

The outcomes of this work will continue to yield benefits to the members of Santoy for years to come. Success stories like Mr. Murdock’s are at the heart of Partners of the Americas' philosophy to “Connect, Serve, and Change Lives”.   

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