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The construction phase of the second of three flagship irrigation projects to be implemented under the National Irrigation Development Programme (NIDP), was officially launched in Seven Rivers, St. James on Friday, (March 3). This phase of the Project is slated for completion in nine months at a cost of some $23.7 million.
The first flagship irrigation project under the NIDP is being developed in the Pedro Plains area of St. Elizabeth, while the third will be in the Hounslow area of that parish. The three Flagship projects, Pedro Plains, Seven Rivers and Hounslow are being funded through loan financing of approximately US$12 million, from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), representing the first phase of the NIDP.
In giving the keynote address at the launch of the construction phase for the Seven Rivers Irrigation project, Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan explained that the second phase of the NIDP would commence early in the 2006/07 financial year, and would see the construction of an additional five irrigation projects valued at US$21 million.
He said that these projects located in Colbec, New Forrest/Duff House, Yallahs, St. Dorothy and Essex Valley would be funded by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter American Development Bank (IADB).
“Up to the year 2015 we will be spending another US$73 million, making it a total of $6.9 billion to complete the islandwide programme under the NIDP. We expect and anticipate that there is going to be an additional 15,000 hectares of irrigated land when we have completed the master plan, and this is going to affect directly more that 6,900 farm families,” he said.
Mr. Buchanan expressed the view that with the multiplying effect, the lives of over 40,000 farm families would be affected in some way.
Turning to the details of the Seven Rivers Irrigation system, the Water Minister pointed out that it would affect approximately 32 hectares of farm land. He said that the system would consist of an intake on the Seven Rivers, which is a tributary of the Great River, with a gravity conveyance of some 5.5 kilometres.
He further explained that the system would have some unique features, which would enable farmers whose farm plots could not be gravity fed, to still be able to access the irrigation water.
He encouraged the farmers benefiting from the project to be prepared to diversify their crop production.”We believe that there is going to be an increase within the project area of some 2,636 person days of rural employment per annum, as a result of the irrigation. We expect that some $6.3 million of additional earning is going to come as a result of the irrigation,” he stated.
The Minister mentioned the expected increase in hotel rooms in western Jamaica over the next year as a potential market for the expected increase in production that would result from the implementation of the irrigation projects. Mr. Buchanan urged the farmers not to let their horizons stop there, however, but to also look at the export market.