A number of agricultural stakeholders in St. Elizabeth are lauding the rainwater harvesting project being undertaken in Lititz, noting that it has brought hope of increased yield for farmers, who have long suffered the effects of seasonal drought conditions.
The $4.5 million project now underway and is slated for completion in June, involves resuscitation of a six million-gallon catchment tank located in the area for the harvesting and storage of rainwater, which will be piped to farmers utilising solar technology.
The scope of work includes repairing cracks in the tank, bushing of the premises and removal of debris, erecting a security fence, installing a solar pump and conveyance system, and designing and installing a gravity drip system.
“This is an important project that will assist the farmers. It is of utmost importance,” stated President of the Lititz Production and Marketing Organization (PMO), Vincent White, at the recent launch.
The four agro-processing facilities in the parish – Southern Food Processors, Southside Distributors, Jamaica Exotic Flavours and Essences Company, and a bammy factory in New Building, also stand to benefit from increased supply of produce.
Chairman of the Alpart Community Council, which assists the farming community, Lenworth Blake, hailed the initiative as “timely” due to the fact that the drought period is on. He noted that during a calendar year, farmers in the parish usually benefit from about four months of rainfall, and most of that goes to waste.
He said that through the project, that water will be collected and farmers will have a reliable irrigation source during the dry period. “It is a great project especially using the solar pumps to pump the water to the farmers, and certainly, it will make this community a better community, a richer community, and farmers will be laughing all the way to the bank,” Mr. Blake said.
Being undertaken by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), through funding from the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project also addresses the problem of land degradation, by introducing farmers to best practices in drip irrigation and land husbandry.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, who launched the project, said the country’s farmers deserve up-to-date water storage and delivery facility to improve their capacity to increase production to ensure food security.
He also called for other such projects to be undertaken in other parts of the island “not only for irrigation purposes…but to prevent the land degradation problem that has been dogging us for sometime now, caused mainly from deforestation, excessive land mining and other activities.”
Chief Executive Officer of the NIC, Douglass Walker, also stressed the importance of land preservation and sustainable farming. “Land degradation is everybody’s business; food security is equally important, so we must do everything in our powers to ensure that we are one step ahead of all potential obstacles that could affect us, and put measures in place to prevent and reduce the effects of land degradation and climate change,” he said.
Resident Representative for the GEF, Dr. Arun Kashyap, in his remarks, said his agency is committed to supporting food security through farming while ensuring land preservation.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for East St. Elizabeth where Lititz is located, Richard Parchment, urged the farmers to take care of the facility, “so that the agencies see the venture as viable and fund the rehabilitation of other unused tanks in the parish”.
“We want to say to the farmers, the system being developed, we want you to treat it well. Based on what the farmers do, it is going to be a template for what can happen in South East St. Elizabeth, so I am imploring the farmers to do what is necessary to ensure that the system becomes a success,” he said.
The NIC, in the meantime, is advising farmers to utilise the black tanks to store rainwater for irrigation purposes.
“This will reduce the amount of water used from the regular water system. Rainwater is also a good source of water in times of drought and it can always be used to complement the normal water supply,” the agency stated in a report.
The agency also advised that, “farmers can set up mini catchment areas on farms, harvest the water and use it later for crops, which will in turn, give a higher yield. Farmers may also build underground storage tanks on farms and catch and channel the water from the roof to the source of storage”.
The underground storage method, the agency said, is suitable in hilly areas where water is scarce because of a lack of access to regular water system.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter