The St. Thomas Infirmary Poultry project was officially handed over by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Thursday, March 26, 2009.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, the Honourable Robert Montague, Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government in the Office of the Prime Minister, said that the “project supports the Government’s Policy on agriculture which speaks to advancing agriculture for sustainability and food security”. Minister Montague added that it was a most timely project as our people needed to go back to basics producing and consuming our own products; this project was adhering to this principle.
The St. Thomas Infirmary Poultry, established under the Initiative for Soaring Food Prices (ISFP) project, was born out of the collaborative effort of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the St. Thomas Parish Council and the Board of Supervision and was aimed at establishing sustainable food gardens and backyard agricultural ventures at Institutional homes. These would produce vegetables and chicken meat to supplement the residents’ diets while producing surplus quantities that could be sold, thereby supplementing the institutions food budget, as well as fill in part the needs of other Institutional homes. Two other projects were approved under the proposal and they are all designed specifically to help infirmaries cope with rising cost of food by promoting food security and self-sufficiency.
Funds provided by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization went into the expansion of the previous poultry (broiler) unit, construction of a new layer unit, the repair and construction of a new slaughtering and storage facilities. New equipment such as a water tank, waterers, feeders, sinks, stove, refrigerator and slaughtering cores as well as livestock, were also obtained. The St. Thomas Parish Council provided funds to offset the cost of labour and some materials.
Minister Montague said that he considered the project a success as it has demonstrated the ability to sustain its self over time. Despite some challenges at the start, the infirmary produced enough chicken meat to able to re-purchase livestock and feed from sales made after consumption.
The St. Thomas Infirmary Poultry project will be used as a best practice model for the other two projects in Manchester and Westmoreland.