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Jamaica is taking steps towards enhancing the resilience of its agriculture sector and coastal areas in an effort to protect the livelihood and food security of its people.

The objectives will be achieved under the Jamaica Adaptation Fund Programme, which was formally launched on Friday by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.

The three-year project, which got underway last month, is being implemented through grants totaling US$9.965 million from the Adaptation Fund and has as its objective, “to protect livelihoods and food security in vulnerable communities by improving land and water management for the agricultural sector; strengthening coastal protection; and building institutional and local capacity for climate change adaptation”.

It will target groups including fisherfolk, farmers, tourism interests, including hoteliers and tour operators, and select government entities in eight parishes ? Westmoreland, specifically Negril; St. Thomas; St. Ann; Trelawny; St. Catherine; Clarendon, particularly the Bull Head region of the Rio Minho watershed; St. Mary; and Manchester.

Minister Pickersgill stated at the launch that “climate proofing key economic sectors through policy development, budgetary allocations and development planning, is no longer an option for us – it is essential”.

He said the massive damage wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean and North America is “a wake-up call”, noting that “it is a reminder of the urgency with which we must continue to build the resilience of our countries to Climate Change, even as we carry out measures to adapt in the immediate circumstances”.

He said that the loss of natural and man-made coastal resources due to sea level rise, and the potential for increased saline intrusion into the country’s already affected coastal water, are of utmost concern. “Our power plants, hospitals and shelters, major roadways, government and private offices, hotels and other infrastructure critical to our economic growth and development are located, for the most part, in coastal areas,” he noted.

"Furthermore, the loss of life, personal property, and our GDP (Gross Domestic Product), due to increased frequency of extreme weather events, are among our greatest concerns,” he added.

Minister Pickersgill stated that he had “high expectations” of the project, which will be executed primarily by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and relevant agencies; the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment; and the National Works Agency (NWA). 

Among the activities under the project are: the establishment of water harvesting methods; training in technologies that will improve soil moisture retention as well as installing submerged breakwaters in the mid-region of Long Bay, Negril, which has experienced the greatest level of erosion in the past four decades.

The implementing agency is the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), whose Director General, Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson, said “the interventions are expected to positively impact food for domestic consumption and export, and contribute to the lowering of the US$1 billion food import bill, while contributing to food security and stabilising the local supply chain.

"The intervention will also assist in securing livelihoods in beneficiary communities and importantly, in the restoration of the critical ecosystem in Negril, which is so vital in Jamaica’s climate sensitive economy,” he stated.

NEPA will be partnering with the NWA to implement Component 1 of the project, which will seek to further enhance the resilience of the vulnerable Negril coastline.

The project will result in 2,000to 2,500 metres of the Negril shoreline being stabilised over time and contribute to the restoration of the sea grass bed.