Jamaica’s agricultural sector, largely dominated by small farmer families, plays an important role in contributing to National Food Security. Small farmers in the ‘breadbasket’ parish of St. Elizabeth, in particular, are important producers of scallion, onion and other crops. Recent advances in onion production are significant elements leading to improvements in their livelihoods. However, these improvements have been threatened by increasingly frequent and serious outbreaks of the Beet Armyworm (BAW) (Spodoptera exigua Hübner) infestations. Despite efforts by the farmers and government agencies to control the outbreaks in 2009-2012, the devastation has continued to erode the progress made and the livelihoods of the farmers (J$140 million/US$1.4 million). This is largely due to an inability to provide appropriate production practices and management options to farmers. In response to a request from the Government of Jamaica to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the project Strengthening a National Beet Armyworm Management Programme (TCP-JAM-3401) was formulated and approved in 2012. Activities, which began in January 2013 include consultative and participatory processes among national, international experts and farming communities, towards the development of a strategy to adopt area-wide, integrated and comprehensive approaches to management of the BAW infestations. These are expected to contribute significantly to improved and sustained production. FAO assistance includes the development of a forecasting tool (FT) to assist farmers in making effective management decisions based on climatic conditions, as well as support to undertake an extensive Farmer Field School (FFS) programme, training both national Extension personnel and farmers in Training of Trainers workshops. It is anticipated that this approach would enable more timely and appropriate responses to BAW infestations and an improved/effective management of the BAW, as well as facilitate the institutionalization of FFS for direct empowerment of farmer communities and groups. The paper reports on progress made over the past 18 months, highlighting achievements under each component of the project.


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