A rainwater harvesting project, to benefit some 300 farmers in the bread basket parish of St. Elizabeth, was launched on March 15 by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC).
The $4.5 million project, to be undertaken with support from the United Nations Global Environmental Facility (GEF), will involve resuscitation of a six million-gallon catchment tank located in the community of Lititz, for the harvesting of rainwater for irrigation purposes.
The scope of work will include 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.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, in his remarks at the launch held at the project site, said the undertaking is significant “as it will provide a scarce resource to a resilience set of farmers”.
He pointed to the need for unused catchment tanks across the island to be put into operation so that there can be an increase in rainwater harvesting. “I would want to see this project replicated throughout Jamaica, not only for irrigation purposes,” he said.
The rain water harvesting project, which will be implemented by the Forestry Department, was borne out of a need to address the problem of land degradation, by introducing farmers to best practices in drip irrigation and land husbandry. It is slated for completion in June 2012.
Through collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), training will be provided to farmers via seminars and on-farm demonstration using the Farmer Field School methodology. The method, which involves trainers working alongside farmers as advisors and facilitators, promotes exploration, discovery and adaptation under local conditions.
Minister Clarke in the meantime, urged the country’s farmers to increase production, so as to grow the economy and boost employment. “What we need in this country is production and employment. We are not going to get ourselves out by borrowing money every day,” he stated.
He said that more focus must be placed on agro-processing and the valued-added aspect of the sector, noting that “the time has come when we must decide that we cannot continue to be primary producers”.
"We want more of the value-added to be done here so that the farmers can get more money. It is the only way that we are going to attract young people into agriculture,” the Minister said.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter