THE RURAL Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), at the start of national Farmers' Month April 2013, launched its newly developed strategy of increasing the data-collection capacity of its extension officers to serve farmers more efficiently and effectively.
RADA's clients are comprised of some 230,000 farmers.
Some 124 computer tablets were assigned to the Authority's field officers at the start of April, to further enhance efficient collection of data needed to grow the sector, as well as provide offshoot services such as real-time communication between field officers and the police in crimes affecting the sector such as praedial larceny.
The strategy focuses on increased technology usage by RADA's extension officers to achieve better performance in their field operations, which will enhance the growth and development of the agriculture sector. Extension service to farmers is the core function of the Authority.
A tablet computer is a one-piece mobile computer. The device typically offers a touch screen, with finger (or stylus) gestures acting as the primary means of control.
In delivering the main address at the handover of the tablets, Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOAF), indicated that the move to have the authority's extension service use such cutting-edge technological equipment at this time was in line with the National Policy for Agricultural Development.
STRONGER IT CULTURE
That policy is seeking to build a higher number of persons to form a much stronger information technology (IT) culture generally and spill over into the agriculture sector to improve current performances - as the Jamaican economy seeks growth, food safety and food security.
He said further that the aim between the RADA and the MOAF, as it relates to development of the sector, is to move towards a greater alignment of the policy objectives set at the national level - especially with agriculture being reaffirmed as one of the chief drivers of economic growth and development for the nation.
He called for more scientific interventions into the sector for its continued flourishing, particularly against the background of the need to get more out of less, as resources generally in all sectors are diminishing. Stanberry said the much-touted International Monetary Fund agreement is no panacea, and the $3.1 billion set for recurrent expenditure for the agriculture sector is way below the amount needed to grow and profit from agriculture.
TIME FOR INNOVATION
He said, therefore, this is the time for innovation and thinking out of the box. Lauding the move to use technology and science to get more from the same assets in the agriculture sector, he explained that technology tools are not status symbols, but a new method to do the work better and more effectively.
Meanwhile, Dr Densil Williams, chairman of the RADA national board, articulated that, along with the new modes of technological interventions, the authority will be guided by the board to help farmers in other areas such as how to access their National Insurance Scheme benefits, with a view to looking at life after their prime years as farmers had elapsed.
Dr Williams added that heightened focus for this board is the provision of markets for local produce, as well as devising ways of supporting the structure to sell the output of the nation's farmers.
The information for this edition of the RADA Diaries was prepared by the Communications and Public Relations Unit of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). Further information can be had from RADA by calling 1-888-ASK-RADA or by logging on to www.rada.gov.jm.