Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, on Friday (December 11), handed over equipment, valued $29 million, to the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) Limited and Water Resources Authority (WRA), under the Essex Valley Agriculture Project.
The NIC received a backhoe valued $24 million, while the WRA was presented with a 2020 Nissan Qashqai SUV, priced at $5 million, to aid in the maintenance and future viability of the £35.5 million agriculture project, being developed in St. Elizabeth.
The presentations were made during a ceremony at the NIC’s New Forrest office in Manchester.
The project is being funded by United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund, which is administered by the Caribbean Development Bank, and is slated for completion by August 31, 2022.
The undertaking, which represents one of the largest investments in irrigation infrastructure in Jamaica, will impact the livelihoods of over 700 farmers on 718 hectares of land through the provision of water and improved access to local and global agricultural markets.
The NIC is the lead agency in the project’s implementation, on which it has partnered with the WRA.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Minister Green said the provision of the equipment represents a journey towards the long-term modernization and transformation of the agriculture sector.
“We have seen a number of instances where we have these extensive irrigation schemes, and as would happen from time to time, you have challenges, you have breaks in your line and you have to depend on the kindness of other agencies… to get the equipment you need to go and provide the service,” he said.
Against this background, the Minister said “part of our drive is to ensure that all our schemes have the adequate equipment to provide that service”.
Mr. Green said the Government remains committed to the development of agricultural irrigation networks, noting that these are critical to expanding production and productivity in the sector.
“This is part of the Government’s drive to ensure that we extend our irrigation network. We have long recognized that one of the biggest challenges our farmers face is access to reasonably priced water. We have seen that when we give them the water, the farmers are able to increase their productivity,” he pointed out.
For his part, NIC Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Gyles, who welcomed the provision of the backhoe, said a robust maintenance programme will be implemented to safeguard the equipment, which is critical to the sustainability of the irrigation scheme.
“This area [Essex Valley] is exemplary in its production and productivity and is home to, arguably, the best performing irrigation scheme in the country. It is, therefore, with great gratitude that we accept this piece of equipment on behalf of the farmers in the project area and the people of Jamaica who are, indeed, the ultimate beneficiaries,” he stated.
Meanwhile, WRA Managing Director, Peter Clarke, said the vehicle will go a far way in assisting to ensure the project’s sustainability through effective monitoring which, he pointed out, is essential to “making sure that water will always be available”.