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JIS News

Plans are in high gear to observe World Food Day, on October 16, at the Manchester High School, under the theme ‘World Food Security: the challenges of Climate Change and Bio-energy’.
A number of activities have been planned, to drive home the need to ensure Jamaica’s food security in the context of the impact of climate change and bio-energy, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Dunstan Campbell.
In a recent interview with JIS News, he informed that “the week’s events will include an exhibition, a forum with farmers, and presentation of FAO awards for agricultural projects that exemplify this year’s theme.”
Some 20 exhibitors will mount displays, including Jamaica 4H clubs; the Forestry Department; College of Agriculture, Science and Education; Bodles Agricultural Research Station; and the Green House Growers Association.
Other activities will include the awarding of three FAO bronze medals to individuals, companies, associations, groups or churches, whose agricultural activities best exemplify the theme, Dr. Campbell said.
There will also be a School Gardening Competition, with prizes awarded to the best gardens in primary, high, and technical and vocational schools. A Backyard Gardening Competition, will see a prize being given to the best backyard garden, while a Farmers’ Forum will engage farmers from Manchester and surrounding parishes in discussions on food security, climate change, and bio-energy.
FAO literature states that food security is a high priority for Governments all over the world, due to recent food and fuel price increases, that have pushed millions of vulnerable persons over the poverty line.
The FAO documents further state that for countries to overcome this, they must put plans in place to increase agricultural production by adjusting to the impact of climate change, and joining the search for alternative fuel sources.
Impacts of climate change include more frequent and intense storms, rising sea levels, loss of species, increases in plant and animal pests, and less harvesting from capture fisheries.
Dr. Campbell outlined a number of initiatives that the FAO has been undertaking in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, to help Jamaica’s agricultural sector cope with these challenges.
One such initiative he spoke of was the establishment of a disaster management plan for the agricultural sector, to foster the resumption of food sales in the shortest possible time after hurricanes.
“Planting root crops to come in during the hurricane season is being looked at, as this would mean less crop damage and availability of food immediately after a hurricane, as root crops are less susceptible to storm damage,” Dr. Campbell informed.
The school and backyard gardening programmes, he said, “are important mechanisms for changing mindset, encouraging more use of locally produced foods, and growing of these foods.” Backyard and school gardening, he added, “also mean reduced spending for homes, schools or institutions, and possible income generation through sales of produce.”
He highlighted the fact that school gardening was being promoted as a multi-disciplinary educational and research activity for students to learn physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and other subjects.
Other joint FAO and Ministry of Agriculture initiatives to help Jamaica cope with climate change, Dr. Campbell said, include the promotion of hedge-row planting to assist with soil retention and crop protection. “Several months after hedge rows are planted, increased soil depths can actually be seen,” he noted.
Hedge-rows are forms of terracing offering good protection against soil and wind erosion during heavy rains, storms, or hurricanes.
The FAO Representative also spoke of greenhouse farming, which protects crops from extreme drought or heavy rain, thereby minimising crop damage and shortages at one time or gluts at another. “With greenhouse farming,” he said “crop production would be more stable, meaning people could find regular supplies of what they needed on a continuous basis.”