The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) have concluded a joint research project, which focussed on climate change awareness and adaptation strategies employed in farming and fishing communities in western Jamaica.
The research project titled, ‘Rapid Assessment: Community Climate Change Awareness and Adaptation Strategies Project’, was funded by the Organization of American States (OAS) and conducted by ODPEM and the PIOJ over a four-week period, September to October. It covered four coastal communities in two parishes – Flagaman and Black River in St. Elizabeth, and Darliston and Whitehouse, Westmoreland.
At a workshop held Tuesday (November 3) at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, to discuss some of the project’s findings, Mitigation Programme Officer at ODPEM, Karema Aikens-Mitchell, explained that the communities were specifically chosen, due to the extent of farming and fishing activities in those areas, and their recent experiences with natural hazards.
The workshop also sought to initiate dialogue among stakeholders on enabling community-based adaptation to climate change, and open discussions regarding mainstreaming climate change in Jamaica.
Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson (centre), in discussions with Director of the Organization of American States (OAS) office in Jamaica, Dr. Joan Neil (left), during a workshop on a joint research project between ODPEM and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) which dealt with climate change awareness and adaptation strategies in farming and fishing communities in western Jamaica. Looking on at right is the Senior Legal Specialist at the OAS, Claudia de Windt. The workshop was held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
Mrs. Aikens-Mitchell said that three rapid assessment tools (or participatory learning methodologies) were used to garner information for the project. These comprised a literature review on climate change; information gathered from four focus groups; and surveys conducted in the targeted communities.
The Mitigation Programme Officer contended that those assessed were highly aware of climate change and the issues and impacts. She noted that some residents spoke knowledgeably on matters such as: temperature increases and variability in rainfall patterns.
Regarding their grasp of the deeper implications of climate change, she revealed that some of the participants went beyond just what it meant, into how it can impact livelihoods, into how improved markets for agriculture can play a role.
The study will document the results, highlighting sustainable adaptation strategies for replication in other communities, and noting how the unsustainable ones may be reversed. The results of the study will be used as a guide to develop future climate change awareness programmes, as well as to identify gaps in the provision of environment related data.
Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, in his remarks, noted that Jamaica has been experiencing increased hurricane and tropical storm activities, which have implications for health and agriculture.
“What we have had are multiple events over a short period of time, and inclement weather that has also led to significant challenges, challenging people within the community, challenging our farming community who have already had to deal with the cycle of drought under normal circumstances,” he noted.
Mr. Jackson said ODPEM felt that the community interventions for climate change-related risk mitigation had to be beyond just dictating to the residents what the issues are.
“We felt that there needed to be greater investment in risk mitigation in policy, in particular, and looking at the whole macro-economic processes of dealing with climate change but, more importantly, to engage community persons (to see) how they adapt to these issues and challenges which they now face,” he said.
Director of the Sustainable Development Unit at the PIOJ, Claire Bernard, noted that climate change is a development issue, which is why the institute got involved in the project.
“We wanted to ensure that the project really was of great relevance to the people of Jamaica, both in terms of helping to understand what people in the communities know and what they are doing, how what they are doing can be replicated in other communities,” she said.
Even more important, she said was documenting the findings, so that they provide a body of knowledge to help in advanced planning to deal with the impacts and potential impacts of climate change.
Director of the Organization of American States (OAS) office in Jamaica, Dr. Joan Neil, said she was pleased to be associated with the project, which she described as an “excellent, high quality rapid response intervention.”
Stakeholders who participated in the workshop included representatives of: The Department of Local Government in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Panos Institute of the Caribbean, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Forestry Department and members of the private sector.