Two years ago, the Golden Valley Jamaica Agricultural Society (GVJAS), based in Saint Thomas, Jamaica, received training on agroforestry as a business through a farmer field school. The training, provided by ACDI/VOCA’s Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) project helped farmers add a new skill to their repertoire: beekeeping. Since then, the group has improved their beehives, developed product branding, and diligently fundraised thanks the support of the USAID-funded JA REEEACH II project.
This new venture into apiculture led to unexpected business opportunities. For one, proceeds from the sale of honey allowed the group to start a much-needed, revolving livestock project. Despite their success producing honey, GVJAS President Evelyn McGowan emphasized the challenges they still faced, like droughts and the onset of the rainy season. A revolving livestock project would help members mediate the effects of those challenges through income diversification—a principle taught during the farmer field school and embraced by participants.
To kick things off, a handover ceremony took place, during which an initial four members received 100 baby chicks and eight bags of starter rations, and one member received a goat. Their objective was to divide future offspring among members.
The group anticipated 20 percent of net profits from chicken rearing operations would return to GVJAS members, enabling them to purchase livestock of their own.
“In the next six months, we are expecting to help five to six more group members in a similar way.” – Evelyn McGowan, GVJAS group leader and Ja REEACH II participant
What’s more, the handover ceremony took place at the Golden Valley Basic School, a beneficiary of GVJAS. The group not only pays for the building’s utilities, but also runs a back-to-school initiative to help children in the community acquire school supplies.
“Our months of apiculture training through the [farmer] field school weren’t in vain because now we are reaping something from it. It might not be big, but, if we work on it and take care of what we get, then we can go on.” – Viviene Henry, GVJAS member and Ja REEACH II participant
Students play during lunch time at the Golden Valley Basic School, a beneficiary of GVJAS.
As Jamaica continues to experience droughts, temperature increases, and more frequent natural disasters, Ja REEACH II focuses on reducing the vulnerability of communities and supporting their efforts toward adaptation and climate change resilience. Offering one more benefit, many GVJAS members hoped the handover ceremony would encourage more individuals to join the network. As the network grows in number and in operations through Ja REEACH II, so will its potential to boost incomes and benefit the community.