The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, on Wednesday (December 16), handed over conditional ownership for water harvesting infrastructure to 12 water user (farming) groups in seven parishes across the island.
These include reservoirs, catchment and storage tanks (both on-farm and central) as well as drip irrigation systems, which were constructed in Clarendon, St. Catherine, St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. Ann, Manchester and Trelawny under the second component of the Government of Jamaica’s Adaptation Fund Programme.
Being implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) through a grant of approximately US$10 million from the Adaptation Fund, the programme is aimed at strengthening climate resilience of the agricultural sector by improving water and land management, thereby protecting livelihoods and enhancing food security.
The handover of the systems represents the closeout of this phase of the project, with the Ministry presenting the groups with a custodian agreement, which transfers responsibility for the management, operation and maintenance of the farming assets to the groups, with an understanding that once the terms and conditions are satisfied ownership will be transferred.
President of the Walkerswood Farming Group, Denyse Perkins, signed the agreement with the Ministry and its partners as a symbolic gesture on behalf of all the groups, during a ceremony at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens location.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, during his address hailed the project team for implementing an initiative that positively impacts farmers and their livelihoods.
“This project goes to the heart of what we need to do in relation to agriculture. We have to ensure that agriculture is climate-resilient, we have to introduce climate-smart practices and not just in relation to policy. We have to take a very practical approach in ensuring that the farmers in and around our communities are doing it in their day-to-day life,” the Minister noted.
This, he said, means expanding the island’s irrigation network and ensuring that the farmers have access to water-harvesting technology, so that they can store the commodity for use during periods of drought.
The Minister encouraged the groups to ensure that they take good care of the systems, so that it can “transform generations”.
He pledged that the Ministry will continue to work with the farmers, noting that he has instructed the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to track the expected increase in production from the groups.
Project Management Specialist from the Ministry, I.W. Wilson, in his presentation said that all six objectives under component two of the Adaptation Fund Programme were achieved in the participating communities.
These are to increase the availability of irrigation water, to provide a consistent supply of irrigation water, to provide rainwater harvesting as a means of increasing crop production, to improve the quality of life through increased earnings for the farmers and their families, and to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts through the implementation of best practices in terms of climate-smart agricultural practices.
“So, having accomplished all the targets, so far, it is reasonable to say the project was a success,” he said.
Chairperson of the Windalco/Kirkvine Joint Community Council, Angela Edwards, extended gratitude to the project team, noting that the farmers are seeing marked improvement in output as a result of the increased access to irrigation.
“We had this huge pond that we were almost unable to collect water from because we had no catchment, and the project came on board and actually fitted 20 greenhouses with gutters.
“So now we have no shortage of water and we have upped our production by at least 75 per cent,” Mrs. Edwards said, noting that the Windalco/Kirkvine farmers have been able to sell upwards of 2,000 pounds of produce every two weeks.
“It has really helped our farmers quite a lot and it put us in a position where we can really compete. It has made a huge difference to our productivity,” she added.