If you think of Jamaican beer, the first thing that comes to mind might be Red Stripe. Locally brewed since the 1930s, Red Stripe has become a source of pride and patriotism for Jamaicans. To keep that tradition alive, the brewer is working with IDB Lab to boost local economic growth by reducing Red Stripe’s reliance on a key imported ingredient, High Maltose Corn Syrup, and replacing it with cassava, a home-grown crop.
By turning to cassava, Red Stripe will redirect funding to local farmers, boost the country’s agricultural community and create a more sustainable supply chain. This will help provide more work for Jamaicans, strengthening the country’s economy.
Thanks to its partnership with IDB Lab’s Project Grow, Red Stripe expects to reduce corn syrup imports by 40% by 2020. Project Grow has been supporting Red Stripe’s plans—and broader economic development in Jamaica—by providing access to financing, job skills training and certification programs.
“This is a golden opportunity for me and my community, where unemployment…is high,” said Kerrian Rickets, a student in Project Grow’s Cassava Planting Program.
“Before I started this course, I was at home, unemployed,” she said, adding that she hopes the program will help her get a job.
Project Grow is training young Jamaicans like Kerrian to help insert them in the cassava value chain as farm workers, processors and service providers. For Red Stripe’s plans to work, Jamaica will have to sharply increase cassava output and small-scale producers will need to boost production capacity.
Meanwhile, Red Stripe is building a more secure labor market by signing three‐year cassava purchasing agreements with local farms.
Project Grow is helping farmers to develop business plans, become financially literate, and obtain the skills needed to manage commercial farming operations. The project also provides training in sustainable land preparation, water management, crop nutrition, farm diversification, and pest and disease management. Red Stripe uses its own farms as demonstration plots to train farmers.
“This is a golden opportunity for me and my community, where unemployment…is high,” said Kerrian Rickets, a student in Project Grow’s Cassava Planting Program
Once students finish agronomy and business courses, Red Stripe determines if they are eligible for work contracts. Horatio Hamilton, another student who is training at a Red Stripe farm in St. Catherine, Jamaica, says he and his fellow classmates are learning to plant and harvest cassava.
“I hope to become a certified farmer,” said Horatio, adding that he hopes to eventually help other Jamaicans who are also looking for work.
The project seeks to create a network of small and medium-size farms capable of supplying cassava year-round for industrial processing. It also aims to test and introduce new varieties, offer training on how to deploy climate-smart production techniques, and increase access to financing. Within four years, the program is expected to help produce 24,000 metric tons of cassava worth US$6.2 million in annual sales.
Income from small‐scale farming in Jamaica is low and small-scale farmers in Caribbean countries like Jamaica are typically 41 to 54-year-old males with only a primary or secondary education.
Project Grow began in select Jamaican parishes where the climate favors cassava production. The areas include St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. Mary, St. Thomas and St. Ann. These are some of the poorest places in Jamaica, according to a 2012 survey. In St. Thomas, the poverty rate was 32.5%, followed by 24% in St. Catherine, 19.3% in Clarendon, 18.4% in St. Ann, and 9.4% in St. Mary. Project Grow aims to boost economic growth and youth employment in each of these areas. It will directly benefit 200 small and medium-size farms and 1,000 vulnerable youth while indirectly benefiting 3,170 people.
To know more from the agricultural landscape in the Caribbean, download Agricultural Policies in the Caribbean: A Regional Analysis, here!