KINGSTON — Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, says Jamaica must move quickly to implement policies to safeguard the nation’s food security, and preserve water resources and the environment.
Speaking at the official launch of Green Expo 2011 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Tuesday (May 24), Dr. Tufton said that global challenges, relating to the availability of food and water, could have serious implications for Jamaica and other countries, if they are not effectively addressed now.
“The United Nations reports, for example, that by 2050, the world’s population will be 40 per cent more than it is now, moving from 6.5 billion to nine plus billion people. That has…significant implications for the issue of sustainability and the capacity of the world to support mankind over this period of time.
“It has implications for critical infrastructure, it has implications for food security, it has implications for health-related issues, it has implications for water and the availability of water. Oftentimes, we do not look at policy and how we pursue policy and strategy in that sort of strategic light, and I think that it’s going to be important for us to do that,” the Minister stated.
He argued that local stakeholders will have to determine how best to effectively utilise available resources, including technology, to attain optimal results and mitigate against critical losses that will overtime, have implications for the environment and sustainable development.
He said that for its part, the Ministry has spent a lot of time looking at food production systems to minimise losses, with several approaches being pursued to improve farming techniques and post-harvest management uses, while facilitating greater information flow between farmers, middle men, and consumers.
“We need to shorten the commodity chain, the value chain, between the farmer and the consumer, hence our farmers markets. It brings the farmer directly to the consumer, it brings the produce fresh to the consumer, it brings the produce at a cheaper price, and it encourages the consumer to consume more. It is a good thing, both from the environmental perspective as well as from the sustainability perspective,” the Minister argued.
Turning to water, Dr. Tufton pointed to the need to incorporate technology into the effective management of this resource and to ensure availability for domestic use, as well as for farming and industrial purposes.
He noted that the world population uses about 54 per cent of available fresh water resources, with average individual consumption of between two and four litres per day, while in the farming sector, it is calculated that between 2,000 to 5,000 litres are used to produce food to feed one person per day.
“We are going to have to be radical and we’re going to have to look at new ways, some very pragmatic simple technology, some, more advanced (to safeguard water supplies),” the Minister said, citing rain water harvesting as one option.
“We should (look at having) a tank…on each development; we can adjust the capacity, whether it’s on the ground or on the roof but we must now get into the habit of preserving our water resources because it is so critical,” he underscored.
Dr. Tufton said the Ministry has been pursuing expansion of the drip irrigation methodology, noting that traditional forms of irrigation, such as utilising overhead sprinklers to “do this massive flooding of the fields”, has proven obsolete.
“Drip irrigation is a highly efficient way, both in terms of providing water nutrients, but also other forms of nutrients. One of the things we have been doing in the Ministry… is promoting to our farmers, the use of the drip irrigation rain harvesting systems, to minimise the losses from inefficient use of our water resources,” he informed.
The Green Expo, an environmental exposition organised by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT), seeks to raise public awareness of the environmental issues locally, regionally, and globally; promote the use of environmentally friendly products and services; and foster a more environmentally conscious nation through education.
This year’s event will be held from June 10 to 12 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel and National Golf Academy, New Kingston. The overarching theme is: ‘Balancing Development with Environmental Protection”, with the sub-theme being: ‘Water Conservation, Alternative Energy Sources, Recycling and Waste Management and Energy Conservation’.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter