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Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, is investigating the impacts of climate change on domestic and export crops and meat production.
  • Portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, said that study is part of measures being undertaken by the Government to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector against the impacts of climate change.
  • He said the information being gathered will be instrumental in “crafting policy and on-the-ground actions.”

The Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, is investigating the impacts of climate change on domestic and export crops and meat production.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, said that study, being undertaken by the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, is part of measures being undertaken by the Government to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector against the impacts of climate change.

He said the information being gathered will be instrumental in “crafting policy and on-the-ground actions.”

Minister Pickersgill was delivering the opening address at the Climate Change Resilience and Food Security Workshop held on April 14 at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He said the Government is actively engaged in fortifying the agricultural sector against the effects of climate change so as to ensure the country’s food security.

He noted that Jamaica is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and weather-related impacts such as droughts, tropical storms and hurricanes, and as such there is the realisation “that we need to increase our resilience to these events and … shore up the various sectors, including agriculture.”

Among the measures being undertaken are: incorporating climate change considerations into agricultural policies, programmes and projects; and providing the sector with severe weather summaries, specialised reports, drought information and astronomical products.

“Fishermen and farmers can now receive weather reports, bulletins and news of approaching bad weather or storms on their cellular phones so that they can be better prepared,” the Minister informed.

Additionally, the technical expertise of the National Meteorological (MET) Service is being enhanced to increase the development of climate and weather-related products for the farming community, so as to encourage increased and sustainable agricultural productivity.

Products that have been developed include the Farmers’ Bulletin, precipitation outlook, five-day forecasts, an index to monitor drought, and a dedicated website for agricultural interests.

The Minister also pointed to the provision of agriculture infrastructure so that the sector can be less climate sensitive. “We have brought on stream, water-saving irrigation systems, better water management systems, and we have constructed on-farm water storage ponds and tanks across the island,” he informed.

Minister Pickersgill said there is also ongoing research and testing in modifying the crop calendar for short-term crops so that growing times can coincide with the new wet and dry seasons, which have been altered by the onset of climate change.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Donovan Stanberry, in his remarks, noted that the issue of food security is a high priority of the Government.

“When a country of our size imports nearly US$1 billion worth of food on a yearly basis, it is, in fact, a matter of serious concern. Not only are we concerned from a fiscal standpoint…but we are more so concerned because of the nutritional content of most of the foods that we import, foods that we can well do without. When you look at the impact on the health, it is a very serious concern,” he said.

He informed that through the development of the agro parks and the “eat what we grow” campaign, strides have been made in increasing the demand for local produce.

“We have seen some good results in recent times. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) has reported that last year, our food import bill went down by nearly five per cent,” he noted.

Mr. Stanberry said climate change poses a “clear and present danger” to food security, and as such, the Government has “started to seriously mainstream climate smart agriculture in our practices.”

“We have to mainstream climate change in all our practices. We have to get our farmers to think climate smart,” he pointed out.

The workshop, hosted by the Commonwealth Geographical Bureau in association with the Centre for Environment Management of the UWI, was attended by representatives from South Africa, Mozambique, Northern Nigeria, New Zealand, Guyana and Jamaica.

The aim was to promote interaction among professional geographers in universities, private sector, Government and non-governmental organisations in different Commonwealth countries.

The workshop facilitated the sharing of case studies and best practices in climate change resilience and food security.