FARMERS IN Jamaica continue to lose millions of dollars in produce and livestock each week to thieves, despite making numerous reports to the police and the several measures implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture over the years.
However, there seems to be a glimmer of hope for farmers as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) is moving to allay the fears of the farmers who believe that they have been left at the mercy of praedial thieves.
Dr Maurice McNaughton, director of the Centre of Excellence at the MSBM, speaking with a group of journalists from across the Caribbean at the Panos Caribbean Data Journalism Workshop in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic, recently, said the MOU explores information and communication technology-enabled innovations to support the enhanced delivery of agricultural extension services to farmers across Jamaica.
The agreement, he said, signals efforts to forge value-added partnerships between agriculture, academia and the local technology community, to benefit from the collective wealth of data, research resources and technical expertise resident within the public and private sectors and academia.
The MOU will be executed as a fellowship programme in which three technology fellows will be embedded at RADA over a sixmonth period.
"During this period, the fellows will gain valuable experiences in the operations of the organisation, its role in agricultural extension delivery, and its relationship and interfaces with the wider industry and stakeholders. The fellows will use open data as a catalyst to develop a portfolio of innovative apps, focused at addressing praedial larceny and agricultural production planning and tracking," McNaughton said.
He added: "We are just not looking at creating an app, but increasing the forensics to understand the nature of the problem. We want to know how farmers are dealing specifically with matters relating to praedial larceny and how it affects them, and then start by building small experimental apps to bite away at the problem," McNaughton said.
"We are not just going to sit in a room and everyone comes up with ideas to the problem. We will be going out into the field, speaking and interacting with the farmers and those who are on the ground and see the challenges, and exploring how open data can tackle the problems of praedial larceny," McNaughton added.
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