When the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme started out in 1966 as a Bilateral Agreement between Jamaica and Canada, no knew the level of impact that it would have on both economies 55 years later. A programme which began with a mere 264 Jamaican agricultural workers going to Ontario to fill a shortage of available Canadian workers, now facilitates over 9,000 workers annually.
Jamaican farmers have been able to purchase homes, motor vehicles, educate their children, access better healthcare and increase their savings as result of the initiative.
For Daine Robinson 36, who resides in St Catherine, the programme has allowed him to improve his socio-economic situation in a significant way. He recalled how he found it difficult to take care of his three daughters prior to his first trip on the farm work programme in 2015.
“Before I started to work on the farm work programme in Canada things were hard and I struggled to send my children to school. However, the programme has changed my life and has given me a decent source of income so that I can make enough money to feed my children, and send them to school on a regular basis,” said a grateful Robinson.
Another participant who has benefited from the programme is 51 year old, Loyel Coke. Coke, who is from St Elizabeth, is considered as a veteran to the initiative as he first participated in 1999.
“Farm work is the best thing that has happened to me, I was able to send my five children to school, build a two bedroom house and buy a car. I have also used some of the new skills that I have learnt in Canada to expand my farm in Jamaica,” Coke explained.
Mrs Andrea Miller-Stennett, Director of Manpower Services in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said that the programme is not only beneficial to the participants but also to the country.
“The Canadian farm work programme has contributed to the growth and development of Jamaica in a number of ways. It has helped to decrease unemployment particularly in the rural areas, reduce poverty, increase remittances and expose participants to modern agricultural production methods,” she shared.
Contributed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.