Local Jamaicans invest in a sweeter future

Boston Diaspora Ventures is a Dorchester-based company with a keen eye for investing in Jamaica. On June 16, the investment group signed an agreement with the All Island Bee Farmers Association of Jamaica, creating a partnership that aims to expand the bee industry on the island and worldwide.

The company invests in projects based in Jamaica, with members from Jamaica, of Jamaican descent, or those who fell in love with the island later in life.

"We feel very strongly to produce and to do things ourselves instead of having the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] and everybody else give us grants," said Kenneth Guscott, BDV member and honorary Jamaican consul for the Boston area. "The product is there, the people are there who, if they have the proper support can do it. That's where we're coming from. We're not doing it just to make money.

Guscott, BDV member and honorary Jamaican consul for the Boston area, said that BDV will be investing $400,000 US dollars into Logwood Distribution, the new company created by their and AIBFA's partnership. The money will go toward getting a bottling plant "retrofitted," or up to snuff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's standards. Logwood Distribution will also buy and bottle honey from bee farmers all across Jamaica and then sell it locally and in the U.S. and Europe. The honey will be sold in Dorchester stores that carry high-end products, and is set to hit the shelves by Thanksgiving.

For a nation with 9.9 percent unemployment according to 2007 CIA World Factbook, Guscott mentioned growth of jobs is key. While the newly renovated bottling plant will produce seven jobs on site, Guscott said the number of farmers may increase by hundreds if would-be bee farmers see that there is a stable market for honey and other bee products.

Guscott, whose parents hailed from Jamaica and whose great-grandfather was a farmer in the island's Northeast, said that the joint venture would stimulate interest in bee farming and make it a more profitable option. According to the agreement signed by BDV and AIBFA, "the Bottling Plant will offer bee-farmers a reliable market for their products, provide them with a steady flow of cash which will enable them to finance the expansion of their business..."

Winfield Murray, AIBFA's president based in western Jamaica, said that there is much potential for the bee farming industry to grow, provided that people are aware of the profits.

"It's a growing industry, has great potential. Over the years people have been keeping away from it because of the bee stings," he said. "We're trying to allay the fears of the people... we've been highlighting the economic value of the bees."

According to Murray, the market for Jamaican honey is valued at over $8 million U.S., but its potential is four times that amount.

"It's important because it helps to build the bee-farming industry in Jamaica and that in turn will provide foreign exchange for the country and to help build the country," said Patricia Farr, treasurer of BDV.

Farr, who came here from Jamaica 30 years ago, also serves as Jamaica's honorary vice-consul in Boston. She said that people should remember their roots and support their native countries, not only in the form of money but also in volunteering time. "It's just a matter of keeping attached to your roots, giving back to your country," Farr, 48, said.

"We want to move forward, we want to be known as one of those countries that produces great people," she added. "We're not just a tourist destination."

"Our purpose is to try to help the island people to stand on their on two feet," said Guscott. "The Irish did it for Ireland and now Ireland is very successful. The Jews did it for Israel. The Indians have done it for India, and we want to do it for Jamaica."