JIS News

Farmers in St. Elizabeth have perfected the art of growing crops in drought conditions and are achieving high yields.
Parish Manager for the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in St. Elizabeth, Elton Bent tells JIS News that the parish is mainly affected by drought conditions between January and March and the period between June and September.
He indicates that this year conditions have been somewhat different from other years, as the parish began experiencing dry conditions at the end of November and is still feeling the effects of it. To combat this problem, he says farmers usually utilize the rainy season for establishing crops and are able to reap when the time is dry.
Mr. Bent points out that farmers also ensure that the moisture content of the soil is preserved by conducting heavy mulching and storage of water in 45 gallon drums at various areas on the plot, which is then used for hand watering at various stages of the drought.
“For a typical farm is Southfield, you will see as much as 50 water drums scattered across the field which is used basically, for storing water,” he reiterates, adding that this is the primary method of watering individual plant as only some areas of the parish are equipped with irrigation facilities.
Some of the very productive areas, particularly South St. Elizabeth, Malvern, Queensbury and Yardly Chase are without irrigation; therefore, they tend to stick to the traditional hand watering of plants.
He explains that throughout the years, RADA has been trying to assist farmers in easing the water crisis by providing the mini drip irrigation system, which he notes, has been effective. However, farmers are presented with a challenge whenever the available water has been utilized as they often cannot afford to refill their tanks.
On the matter of bush fires, the Parish Manager informs that the agency has been conducting a number of training and public education sessions to ensure that farmers are aware of the consequences of using fire to clear land.
“We try at our many training sessions, even when our main topic is not about the prevention of fires, to always include it, just to make farmers aware that you cannot and should not use fire in land preparation practices. We also outline to them that this is not good for the soil and extremely risky, but somehow farmers still continue to do this,” he says.
Mr. Bent tells JIS News that the concern for bush fires and the implication for life, property and livestock have not only come from RADA, but also from the Police and the Fire Department, as the practice is not only done by farmers, but also by housewives who often use burning as a means of disposing of their solid waste.
Looking ahead, the Parish Manager says already there is an improvement in this month’s precipitation when compared to previous months, and this is expected to continue until April, which marks the start of the rainy season in the parish.
In order to utilize the rain that is expected in these months, he informs that farmers have already committed themselves to preparing seed beds and seed trays to be planted in April.
“If you move across the parish, you will see a lot of land preparation taking place at the moment, all with the intention of putting in some crops in the coming months,” Mr. Bent explains.

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