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Earth Today | Water Relief For Vulnerable Farmers In Upper Clarendon
A crop of lettuce growing on the aquaponics farm.

Earth Today | Water Relief For Vulnerable Farmers In Upper Clarendon

More than 68 farmers in drought-stricken communities in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed area of Clarendon have so far received 49,000 gallons of water, with another 48,000 to be delivered over the next three months.

The effort forms a part of the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) project’s COVID-19 response.

“Given that the primary beneficiaries of the AP&FM project are farmers, and some of them lost produce and markets due to COVID-19, we decided to assist with water to help to ‘save’ some of the crops that were left. They didn’t lose jobs, but [they] lost earnings,” said Dr Bridgette Barrett, community animator with the AP&FM project of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience.

“Now, they will be better able to adapt to climate change and increase their earning capacity,” she added.

The AP&FM COVID-19 response is to provide 97,000 gallons of water and assist farmers with storage to harvest water in the Bull Head Mountain region and at the five aquaponic systems recently built by the AP&FM Project in the communities.

The water supply component is being implemented in three phases. Phases one and two have been completed and resulted in the delivery of 49,000 gallons of water. The remaining 48,000 gallons for phase three will be supplied from June to August 2020 to the aquaponics sites weekly, to assist with the water levels in the fish tanks for optimal functioning.

“Forty-nine 650-gallon water tanks are being procured for delivery in June 2020 to farmers in the Bull Head region to assist with the storing of water,” noted Dr Barrett.

In March, the communities of Aenon Town, Ritchies, Alston, Johns Hall, and James Hill – with a combined population of over 10, 333 persons – were introduced to the new aquaponic systems operated by their Community Development Committees.

INNOVATIVE FARMING

Aquaponics is an innovative farming technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production) into a closed system that is resilient to destructive climate-change events.

It is a method that boosts crop production up to 10 times higher than traditionally cultivated plots of equivalent size. It uses 85-90 per cent less water and no chemical fertilisers or pesticides. It is low-energy consumption providing year-round crop production, and uses much less labour than traditional farming.

“Aquaponics is an answer to some of the issues farmers face in plant production. We have not yet reaped any crop, but fish and pak choi will soon be ready,” said Carmen Dillion, a farmer from James Hill.

She and other farmers are hoping that in time they will find a good market, including higglers, hotel, canteen and restaurant suppliers, Rural Agricultural Development Authority connections, nearby markets, and from community members.

Many farmers across Jamaica have been significantly affected by COVID-19 as they lost one of their main markets with the closure of the hotels and the tourism sector. They have sought substitute markets and lowered their prices to recoup some costs. They have suffered major losses and need support to replant to ensure Jamaica’s food security. The farmers in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed are grappling with the impact of COVID-19 and drought conditions.

As a result, the AP&FM project, as a part of its COVID-19 response, liaised with farmers to find out their immediate needs. They indicated the need for water to assist with supporting their farms, as well as getting adequate storage capacity to harvest rainwater for their farms. The project has moved to help to address those needs.

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