Women of Manchester restores agricultural projects for community development
In an effort to continue empowering rural women in the parish, the non-profit organisation Women of Manchester (WOM) is seeking to expand its operations and help those it serves become more self-sufficient.
With approximately five chapters across the parish and approximately 300 members, the organisation, which was started by senior citizens who wanted to give back to the community, managed to secure sponsorship from Food For The Poor in the form of agricultural equipment and a greenhouse to plant 600 trays of onion seeds before the start of the pandemic in the Mizpah community.
However, following after the onion farmers were supplied with the seedlings for planting, the operation was crippled by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t been very active since then. We just started again ... we received another packet of seeds from RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) and we started planting. We have some that have gone out already and these are the second lot, but we want to fill the house again and keep it rolling,” explained vice-president of the organisation, Denise Walters.
Dedicated to “changing the landscape of women in the parish of Manchester”, the president of the movement, Myrna Bailey, said WOM has been able to successfully undertake several other initiatives, which they hope to continue.
“We started a school-feeding breakfast programme. We partnered with the Trees that Feed Foundation, who gave us trees like ackee and breadfruit that helped give people enough to eat and sell; and we also taught them how to make breadfruit flour. We have also, through Food For The Poor, helped persons to get housing. What we try [to] do is match resources with people who are in need of the assistance.”
Bailey said she is hoping that the initiative will be spread across other parishes to help other women become self-sufficient through the assistance of local and international funding agencies.
Recently, the Mizpah chapter of WOM engaged French Ambassador to Jamaica Olivier Guyonvarch, who indicated that an assessment will be done to see if support can be given to the organisation.
“I have to figure out how my office can do something for the community. I would like to serve my embassy the products which are grown here, and to see what we can do here in the future,” Guyonvarch said.
Project Manager at the Mizpah site, Levena Myles, and volunteer coordinator Leon Samms said plans are now underway to have a buildout in agro-processing.
“Three years ago we planted pak choi, cabbage, Irish potato, carrot, sweet pepper and kale, among other seedling[s], and when we sold those, we used the funds to buy ingredients to make sweet potato wine; and this is the first of our venture into agro-processing,” Myles said.
Samms revealed that there are plans to have it tested and approved for market consumption, driving the mandate of helping women engage in activities that will produce monetary benefits.
He added that the group is now engaging the services of RADA to start its new project of producing strawberries.