Climate change poses a major threat to agriculture, a vital sector of Jamaica’s economy. The Government of Jamaica projects that by 2050 the sector will face several ill-effects of climate change. These include a decrease by seven to eight percent in the length of the rainy season, a 20% increase in the frequency of intense rains, uncertainty of water availability, and increased temperatures.
Recognising the need to mitigate the ill-effects of climate change, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries (MICAF) is working to implement projects to build the country’s resilience to it. MICAF also encourages the practise of several climate-smart farming methods aimed at improving resilience to climate extremes and increasing agricultural productivity. Below are some practices that can be helpful.
Techniques for Arable Farming
This is a technique wherein water is collected and stored during periods of heavy rainfall. The stored water is then used during droughts. This allows consistent crop production throughout the year. Some farmers have employed techniques such as installing water storage tanks on their farms. Even more effective and sustainable is the practice of building ponds on farmland. In an effort to help to alleviate the effects of drought, a yearly problem, the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) encourages this practice among farmers. RADA is also seeking to rehabilitate the island’s public catchment facilities to further combat the drought problem.
In this farming technique furrows or trenches are made across slopes where crops are grown. These trenches act as reservoirs to catch and retain rainwater. This allows even distribution of water. It also reduces soil erosion, which leads to severe damage to farmland. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), contour cropping reduces soil erosion by up to 50 percent.
In this method, rows of resilient plants act as barriers for more delicate crops, protecting them from the damage of high wind speeds and certain viruses. The method has been shown to yield positive results in reducing the spread of plant diseases. In Jamaica, corn is regularly used as a barrier crop for the protection of tomato and pepper plants from common viruses.
Barrier plants also provide nutrients to the roots and leaves of the crops.
Mulching is the practice of covering top soil with organic materials, such as grass and straw, or inorganic materials like plastic and stones. Mulching shields soil from the heat and cold, allowing sustained growth throughout periods of extreme temperature. The technique also helps soil to retain water, which keeps the roots moist.
This is the cultivation of two or more crops with different nutrient requirements next to each other at the same time. The method allows farmers to produce more crops in a given area. It also makes use of nutrients that would otherwise not be used by a single crop. MICAF recommends using quick-growing crops – such as scallion, Irish potato, and peas – for intercropping. The Ministry also encourages use of this practice as insurance against the failure of one crop and as a way to reduce soil runoff during heavy rainfall.
Techniques for Fish Farming
In 2017, MICAF embarked on the four year Increasing Access to Climate Smart Agriculture Programme. Through the programme, the Ministry provides financial assistance, tools, training, and technical assistance to fish farmers to help them to utilise aquaponics systems. These systems are made from concrete and are resilient to floods, hurricanes, and drought.
Other climate-smart fish farming techniques are:
– Stocking fish species that can adapt well to climate change impacts, which allows for steady yields year round.
– Installing shades or covers over ponds to protect fish from extreme temperatures.
For further information, contact
Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries
Tel: 876- 927-1731-50/619-1731
Fax: 876- 927-1904