The Jamaican government is finalising plans to expand the utilisation of land and other assets and resources within the correctional system to further boost agricultural production.
The move that is being facilitated through a collaboration between the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is consistent with the Administration’s undertaking to implement measures and initiatives to further reduce Jamaica’s food import bill by greater utilisation of State-owned assets.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), which falls under the Ministry of National Security, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), an agency of the Agriculture Ministry, will be the key entities spearheading the implementation of activities incorporated in a work plan being developed by a special committee comprising representatives of both ministries.
It is also anticipated that participants serving custodial sentences, who will eventually become eligible for parole, will benefit from skills training and certification through the National Security Ministry.
The project is slated for initial rollout at the Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in the eastern parish of St. Mary, which has approximately 350 acres, of which just over 10 acres are under cultivation. Among the crops produced are banana, corn, plantain and sorrel.
In addition, the facility is also engaged in livestock rearing involving pigs and chickens.
On Tuesday, the Centre was visited by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, J.C. Hutchinson and junior minister in the National Security Ministry Pearnel Charles Jr.
Hutchinson told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) that the Ministry is keen on boosting the outputs at Richmond Farm and the other correctional centres, “in making sure that the lands are used to their optimum, so that whatever we need to cut the importation of, we are able to do so”.
He noted the project is also consistent with the administration’s undertaking to put all idle arable State-owned lands under production.
For his part, Charles said the collaboration represents the joined-up inter-ministerial approach in undertaking engagements that will redound to Jamaica’s long-term benefit in the Government’s pursuit to maximise the utilisation of State-owned assets aimed at “increasing our revenue and decreasing our expenses”.