In 2003 Jamaica signed an agreement with the Common Fund for Commodities, a United Nations Agency, headquartered in Holland, for a project entitled "Enhancing the viability and competitiveness of Caribbean Sugar Industries." The project was to be completed in three years and would cost some US $2.5 million of which $1.5 million would be in the form of a grant from the CFC. The rest would be provided by the host country, mainly in the form of services performed in its execution.
The project was conceptualised and proposed to the CFC for funding by this Institute (SIRI), which then became the designated Project Executing Agency. Caroni Ltd of Trinidad & Tobago was put forward as a Collaborating Institution. However radical changes in the structure and function of Caroni Ltd over the last few years have hampered that industry's participation in the project to date.
Implementation of the project began in Jamaica in January 2004. Small holders are the main focus. Each component is geared at improving their efficiency and cost effectiveness as one of the goals is to maintain rural stability. If the cane grower on small holdings can sustain profitable operations, then he is encouraged to remain in rural areas and not become a part of rural/urban drift.
Originally, the project was conceived to address the age old problem of yield decline in sugar cane. This was to be mainly through carrying out a programme of crop rotation, rarely practised by cane farmers. It was however expanded to include: * Establishing seed cane nurseries on small holdings * Farmer participatory variety evaluation * Farmer participatory training in improved agronomic and management practices * Setting up and operation of a pilot centre pivot irrigation scheme among contiguous small cane farming holdings * Research and development into factors causing yield decline in sugar cane * Determining viable farm modules * Dissemination of information gathered under the project
The Jamaican aspects are well advanced, despite setbacks occasioned by severe weather – droughts at the start of 2004 and 2005, a direct hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and glancing blows by hurricanes Dennis, Emily and Wilma in 2005.
The Project's reach extends way beyond the 90 growers so far directly involved in one form or another. The seed cane nursery project, for instance has completely transformed the status of the small holder from being at the end of the chain receiving new varieties to one of equal prominence to any within the industry. Every major farming district now has its own supply of good quality seed stock so that the beneficiaries are in effect any one of the thousands of small holders who may undertake replanting. There are also significant spin-offs in rural employment in the various operations involved in this multifaceted project