Logan Sander, MFS

2014 TRI Fellow in Jamaica

Knowledge, attitudes and skills of small-scale farmers about maintaining and promoting useful plant diversity in Portland Parish, Jamaica

Jamaica’s economy has been in decline for decades and small-scale farming is considered by some to be a “safety valve” for the discontented and underemployed. However, a rapidly changing climate and changing land-use patterns may threaten the viability of some traditional crop varieties currently used by small-scale Jamaican farmers. It is widely recognized that small-scale tropical farmers are the stewards of much useful plant diversity, but it is not known in the Jamaican context whether there are ways to predict which farmers are most important in the promotion and maintenance of this diversity.

I conducted summer research in Portland Parish, Jamaica, to identify the relationships between farmer attributes (such as age, access to labor, area farmed, and specific livelihood strategies) and the on-farm diversity of useful plants that these farmers manage and promote. I conducted interviews with 20 farmers to gather data on land-use history, farming techniques and strategies, and personal attributes and attitudes. Additionally, I recorded all reported useful plant species (at the variety level) on each of the 60 farms that these farmers manage. I hope to understand which of these farmer attributes are predictive of useful plant diversity and whether there are patterns to the types of plants these farmers promote (cash-crops, annuals, tree species, intraspecific varieties, etc.).