Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr, on Tuesday (April 26) officially opened the Rural Economic Development Initiative II (REDI II) Training of Trainers’ Climate Resilience Workshop for agriculture and community tourism stakeholders.
The two-day event, which continues Wednesday (April 27) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, is an initiative of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
A total of 50 participants from various ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Tourism, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the Agro Investment Corporation, the National Fisheries Authority and JSIF, will be engaged in various sessions geared at increasing knowledge on combatting the risks associated with climate change. The trainers will then train the staff within their organisations as well as persons at the community level.
Minister Charles in the keynote address highlighted that “what we are aligning today is our efforts towards a climate-resilient agriculture and tourism sector and the need for us to focus on developing sustainable rural development, which is critical for our country”.
The Minister said the increased global food demand plus the impact of climate change and Jamaica’s vulnerability as a Small Island Developing State are “critical issues” with which the country must contend.
“Our goal in training you is to make sure that you are prepared, and you have the ammunition now to do what is necessary to drive towards food security… and the income generation that we need in Jamaica and across this region,” he said.
Minister Charles also spoke of the country’s implementation of agricultural diversification strategies, including a US$230,000 partnership with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) for a pilot programme on climate resilience and the expansion and
upgrade of a seed storage facility at the Bodles Research Station at Old Harbour, St Catherine.
“Our goal is to encourage our farmers to plant more of the heat and drought-tolerant varieties of crops such as cassava, which… [can] withstand the impacts of climate change,” the Minister said.
Managing Director at JSIF, Omar Sweeney, highlighted the importance of partnerships among government entities. He announced that approximately $14.8 million was invested in the initiative.
“We recognize the importance of agriculture and community tourism,” Mr Sweeney said. “It is, therefore, incumbent on us to continue to invest heavily in these projects which will ensure that our beneficiaries are fully equipped to adapt to the risks associated with… climatic changes.”
Board Director at JSIF, Kedesha Campbell Rochester, echoed similar sentiments in her address.
She charged: “Through this project, you will be able to build the learning capacity of farmers and community-based tourism entrepreneurs on how to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change and, by extension, improve the resilience and long-term sustainability of their businesses.”
The first phase of the Rural Economic Development Initiative was implemented by JSIF from 2010 to 2017 and was pivotal in improving market access for micro and small-scale rural agricultural producers and tourism projects.
REDI II, the second phase, aims to improve both the agricultural and tourism sectors, enhance access to markets and build climate-resilient approaches. REDI II was officially launched in September 2020 by Prime Minister, the Most Hon Andrew Holness.