The ability of stakeholders in the agricultural and fisheries sectors to respond effectively to the onset and impact of natural disasters is expected to be significantly strengthened, when a special Belgian Government-funded project concludes in August.
The 12-month project, entitled: ‘Strengthening Community Preparedness and Resilience to Natural Disasters in Selected Vulnerable Areas in Jamaica’, commenced late last year and is being implemented through the local office of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
This is being undertaken at a cost of €334,000, with funding provided by the Belgian Development Co-operation, and forms part of a €1 million initiative also involving Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Speaking at a special Validation of Agriculture Disaster Risk Management Plans (ADRMP) workshop at the Altamont Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (July 17), FAO Representative to Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Belize, Dr. Jerome Thomas, explained that the project supports the preparation of disaster preparedness contingency plans in vulnerable areas; pre-positions strategic contingency stocks of agricultural inputs to be ready for use by select communities in case of natural disasters; and supports development of information and communication plans for disaster risk reduction.
Dr. Thomas said that against the background of Jamaica, and the wider Caribbean, being prone to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and floods, strengthening of communities’ capacity to be better prepared to respond to natural disasters and reducing the devastating consequences on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable families relying mainly on agricultural and fishing activities, “becomes absolute priority."
In this regard, he said the project has prioritised rural communities and small scale farmers and fishers, deemed most vulnerable to natural disasters and having extremely limited coping capacities.
Dr. Thomas said five communities have been selected to benefit from the project, based on their vulnerabilities. They include: Rocky Point, Clarendon; Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine; New Market, St. Elizabeth; Cascade, Portland; and Halls Delight, St. Andrew.
"During its implementation, the project has placed emphasis on the community level preparedness, elaborating the clear roles and responsibilities at the local level. Special emphasis has also been placed on the livelihood baseline assessment survey, so as to strengthen the community database and, thereby, help to effectively (impart) assessment, disaster preparedness and disaster reduction planning activities,” the FAO Representative stated.
A special feature of the project’s implementation, Dr. Thomas pointed out, has been the development of partnerships with groups that can enable sustainable development. These include: the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAMF); Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, University of the West Indies (UWI); Buff Bay Local Forest Management Committee; Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT); and communications entity, Panos Caribbean, among others.
"It is expected that at the end of the project, the selected vulnerable farmers and fisher folk communities will be better prepared for future disasters and their livelihood will have improved resilience to absorb, cope with and recover from them (disasters). We expect that the model that we would develop would be used and replicated across the entire country," Dr. Thomas said.
In his address, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, endorsed the project, and lamented the poor agricultural practices which contribute to natural disasters. He called on persons engaging in such activities to desist.
"The time has come when people have to understand that the degradation of our hillsides must stop. When you have storms (occurring), these areas are the worst hit, because the trees are cut down…and all the crops you have planted (are washed away). Those are some of the things that we want to deal with,” the Minister said.
Expressing gratitude for the inputs of the Belgian Government and the FAO as well as other agencies, Mr. Clarke pledged his Ministry’s support, assuring that “we are ready to work with you to make sure that this becomes a success."
Project Manager, Robert Kerr, said the workshop was aimed at facilitating presentations and discussions among participants on the proposed development of key factors, such as early warning and communication systems and channels; risk profiles, among others.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter