Work is proceeding smoothly on the Pedro Plains irrigation project in St. Elizabeth for which Prime Minister P.J. Patterson broke ground in January of 2005.
The project forms part of the government’s National Irrigation Development Master Plan (NIDP), which is being piloted by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), with a view to increase farmer participation in the agricultural sector. The programme also complements the government’s long-term agricultural development plan up to the year 2015, by which time it is projected that some 6,900 farming families would have benefited directly from the three major flagship projects being undertaken by the NIC and its partners.
Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan told JIS News that once the Pedro Plains system was completed in April 2006, then it would be time for the signing of the contract for the rehabilitation of the nearby Hounslow system. “This project will also provide an additional 58,220 person days or rural employment, equivalent to about 225 full-time jobs,” he informed. He noted that under the NIDP, “we examined and evaluated some 125 projects island wide and recommended 51 of these at a cost of US$106.3 million up to the year 2015, the long term objective being to bring over 60 per cent of the country under agriculture production by that time.”
According to the Water and Housing Minister, “the projects are expected to generate an average increase of US$55 million in annual income consisting of US$32 million of income to farm families, and US$23 million in wages to farm labour as well as increase total annual agricultural production by US$132.5 million.” Winnifred Williams, General Manager for M & M Construction Limited, the company undertaking the Pedro Plains project, noted that her organization would not only work to meet the construction deadline, but was committed to delivering to the community, something that was lasting.