JIS News

Agricultural specialists from a number of Caribbean territories are in Kingston for a five-day workshop, geared towards increasing their knowledge of the management of agricultural irrigation technology.
The workshop, which got underway this morning (March 13) at the Hotel Four Seasons, is being organised through a cooperative programme between the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the government of Italy, which is aimed at improving food security and safety in CARICOM/CARIFORUM countries.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, who addressed the opening ceremony, emphasised that the cooperative programme sought to “strengthen the human and institutional capacity in agricultural and rural sectors for farm families, communities, national and regional organisations, to improve food security and promote healthy living among Caribbean peoples.” The weeklong workshop, he said, would train regional irrigation technicians in improved water management techniques and facilitate regional networking on irrigation matters.
“The intervention, beginning today,” the Minister remarked, “will give specialists from the Caribbean the opportunity to participate in an agricultural irrigation management course run by certified instructors from the Irrigation Association of the United States, and they will also receive training in the use of specialised equipment.”
He said that last year, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) supervised the utilising of specialised irrigation systems by farmers in vegetable-growing areas of St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Mary, Clarendon, St. Ann, St. James, Hanover, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
He noted that the support was successful, as the farmers “were able to withstand the effects of one of our most devastating droughts, maintain production consistency and quality and grow a wider range of crops.” The farmers, he said further, were also able to boost their yields by 30 per cent and increase their crop cycles from one to three crops per year.
Turning to the irrigation project that has been designed for Jamaica under the FAO/Italian government programme, Minister Clarke said the $18.3 million project aimed to increase productivity by 70 per cent in targeted communities in Portland, St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. Ann, through the introduction of improved water management techniques and demonstrate how production constraints could be overcome.
“The project activities will involve the establishment of irrigation systems together with the provision of planting material, chemicals, tools and land preparation,” he added.
Meanwhile, FAO Representative in Jamaica, Dunstan Campbell, told the workshop participants that food security and poverty alleviation, which were two key concerns of the FAO, were being addressed at the household and national levels, in countries where the Organisation was active.
“Water management as far as the FAO is concerned, is a major strategy towards achieving the objectives of food security and poverty alleviation,” Mr. Campbell told the gathering.
He noted, however, that the full potential of irrigation was not being achieved within Caribbean territories, “because in most of the cases .other best practices in agriculture are not involved with irrigation.”
He encouraged the participants in the workshop, even as they sought to increase their knowledge of irrigation techniques, to also look to “establish strategic alliances, so that the maximum benefit of irrigation can be achieved.”