The Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) is on track to encourage ranchers to grow a special species of grass to improve Jamaica’s food security, but a few farmers in Trelawny aren’t very encouraged as they haven’t been able to reap the benefits to harvest this product, to which special qualities are attributed.
Narrated ranchers David Robb and David James, who were encouraged to plant the Mombasa species The Gleaner that their efforts to plant the grass have failed and they have lost funds invested.
“I plowed three acres of land for $30,000 an acre,” James said. “Representatives from the Jamaica Dairy Development Board came and planted the grass, but there was very little growth resulting in a loss of money and effort.”
Feelings weren’t much different for Robb, who matter-of-factly expressed his disappointment and willingness to undertake another endeavor.
“I planted two acres and got nothing for it,” said Robb. “I am very disappointed, but life goes on.”
Devon Sayers, the project coordinator at JDDB, expressed surprise at the farmers’ experiences. According to him, mombasa is one of the best grass species and they encourage farmers to plant it.
“It comes from the Panicum species and has a nutritional value that ranges from 12 to 17 percent crude protein. This makes it an excellent source for animal feed,” Sayers said.
The JDDB’s project to plant Mombasa continued and was successful in other parts of the country, resulting in ranchers involved in cultivating the grass, large and small, singing praises in Clarendon and St Elizabeth.
A 42 hectare demonstration area has been set up at the Department of Agriculture’s Bodles Research Station Center in Old Harbour, St Catherine, where information is easily accessible to farmers.
“Here, farmers are encouraged to come to the center and learn more about the weed and the best practices for growing it,” Sayers noted.
Indeed, a Trelawny rancher, Kitson Chin, was in Bodles to observe and learn, and his interest was piqued to get involved in the cultivation of the Mombasa grass.
“What I saw encouraged me. I am in negotiations to have JDDB come to my farm and plant at least two acres,” Chin said expectantly.
Meanwhile, Sayers has agreed to visit Robb and James’ farms to determine their problems.
“I will go there and study the best practices of these farmers. For one thing, there are the best times of year to plant mombasa,” Sayers noted.
“I will work with them and others to make planting the grass a success for the farmers,” he promised.
The reason he is making such an effort is because of the additional qualities of the weed, which he believes will work wonders in promoting animal husbandry.
“Mombasa fills up quickly again. It’s very drought tolerant and good for farmers, including those who raise small ruminants,” Sayers explained. “It’s easy to turn into hay. Productive cultivation of this grass reduces the need for animal feed imports.”