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Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Hon. Roger Clarke, has called on farmers to practise sustainable environmental habits including terracing and tree planting, on lands that were prone to flooding.
Minister Clarke, who was addressing a Food and Agriculture Organization-(FAO) sponsored workshop on the improvement of agricultural preparedness in Jamaica today (Dec. 5) at the Hotel Four Seasons, said that preventing loss of farm crops through prudent environmental stewardship was the first step to mitigating the effects of natural disasters, and served better than post-disaster relief efforts by the government.
“We need to get back to basic things. What we have been experiencing over the last few years is a direct result of what we have done to the environment. We are cutting down trees and doing malpractices on the hillsides,” he pointed out.
Noting that these unsustainable agricultural practices were widespread, Minister Clarke said, “I have gone into the hills of the Blue Mountains and these are large farmers doing coffee and they have gone through and denuded the hillsides planting coffee. After a while, the coffee moves off the hills and down into the valleys.”
Minister Clarke pointed out that while compensation was important in the event of unforeseen losses, it was important to exercise prevention through good agricultural practices.
He further urged farmers to make use of the technical advice provided by the extension officers of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), noting that the failure of farmers to accept the advice of the officers was the main drawback to prevention efforts.
“When the RADA people go to these people and say to them ‘do it this way’, many of them say ‘we have been doing this thing from when and we know how it must go’,” he said.
The workshop is part of a regional project, which is designed to contribute to the improvement of disaster preparedness in countries that are highly prone to hydrometeorologic hazards. The overall aim is to compile and compare best practices across the Caribbean by disseminating the information that are gleaned in the plenary sessions of the workshops, which will take place in Jamaica, Cuba, Grenada and Haiti.
Regional Coordinator of the FAO Project in the Caribbean, Audrey Mullings, said the workshop was important as “most of the small-scale farmers’ economic livelihood rely a lot on agriculture.”FAO Resident Representative in Jamaica, Dunstan Campbell informed that CARICOM was in the “final stages of putting together a Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility,” which would target key sectors of the economy for recovery after natural disasters as defined by respective governments”.
Partners in the project are the Government of Jamaica, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), the University of the West Indies, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).