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Some 51 agricultural specialists from the across the island were presented with certificates following their completion of a two-week irrigation training course, sponsored by the Israeli government.

The workshop, which ran from November 26 to December 7, covered four main topics: automated pump management; on-farm irrigation design; rainwater harvesting techniques; and quality and application of treated effluent in agriculture.

Speaking at the closing ceremony at the Farmers’ Training Centre, Twickenham Park, St. Catherine, on December 7, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, cited irrigation and water management as two key areas that must be addressed in efforts to improve the agricultural sector.

He noted, however, that the costs associated was a major hindrance for many farmers, and pointed out that the government was moving to address this concern.

“The cost of irrigation is somewhat prohibitive, although the government subsidises it to about 70 to 80 per cent; but even with all that, it is still very expensive. Therefore, it is important that any kind of way that we can find to make irrigation more affordable, we have to pursue those areas,” he stated.

Mr. Clarke said that the course will help to strengthen the National Irrigation Commission’s (NIC) technical capacity in on-farm water management, enhance sustainable agriculture islandwide, and facilitate sensitivity towards climate change resilience. Additionally, he said the course will enable farmers, through the NIC, to augment their water sources, as well as reduce input costs.

“It will lead to operating efficiencies, improved management information systems, enhance cost savings, and reduce risks in remote areas where pumps are located,” he stated. “The training will also provide technical knowledge transfer to the NIC and assist with critical management decisions."

The Agriculture Minister thanked the Israeli government for its continued assistance and support extended to the sector, pointing out that the country possesses exceptional expertise in irrigation management.

In his remarks, Israeli Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Moshe Sermonetta, said the workshop forms part of an effort and commitment to increase the level of cooperation and between Jamaica and Israel.

He noted that the course was one aspect of a long tradition of cooperation, technical assistance, technology transfer and sharing of best practices between both countries.

“We will continue to seek to work together with local partners, in order to explore ways to increase the levels of trade, investment, tourism, as well as high level visits (between the two countries),” the Ambassador stated. 

Course participant and Manager, On-farm Water Management Unit, NIC, Winston Shaw, remarked that the course represented two-weeks of invaluable resource training, which will, undoubtedly, assist in moving “the agricultural sector to a higher level”.

"All the subjects (covered in the course) are areas that we welcome in our agricultural sector,” he stated.  

Participants were drawn from a number of organisations involved in agriculture. These include: the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; NIC; Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Bodles Agricultural Research Station, HEART Trust/NTA Ebony Park Academy; University of the West Indies (UWI); University of Technology (UTech); Jamaica Drip Irrigation Ltd, Water Users’ Associations, as well as farmers from across the island.