The summer so far has been unusually hot. Farmers in several parishes are suffering from drought conditions, with crops withering in the fields. Also, we are now in the hurricane season. What if a storm appears on the horizon – are we prepared? How can farmers adjust their methods to take into account the growing unpredictability of our weather patterns?
The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has funded several “climate-smart” agricultural projects since 2016, under the Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund (SCCAF). Four climate resilient cropping systems and agro-processing projects have now been completed from the EFJ’s Call for Proposals in 2016. The number of climate-smart agriculture projects funded has jumped from nine in 2016 to eighteen in 2017. Training of participants is an important element for sustainability in all the projects.
What is climate-smart agriculture? It is a different way of looking at farming – using a range of techniques and methods that increase productivity and boost incomes, while at the same time conserving precious water, soil, and energy resources. The long-term goal is to adapt and enable farmers to “bounce back” from the effects of climate change. Where possible, climate-smart techniques should also reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions, for example through the use of renewable energy.
Red peas (or kidney beans) are a crop that can withstand high temperatures. With EFJ’s grant funding of J$4.96 million, the Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative (CJSDI) in Clarendon has successfully completed its Agro-Processing for Sustainable Economic Development Project, which consisted of the expansion of a red peas processing plant. The project included training and employment in the production of red peas, including pest management, crop production, and entrepreneurship. Tools and equipment were procured and five acres of land cleared and prepared for planting. The packing house was refurbished and a solar water system established with eight solar panels to irrigate the land.
“In general, the EFJ is very pleased with the implementation of the projects under the Climate-smart agriculture thematic area,” said Executive Director of EFJ Barrington Lewis. “Specifically, from the projects completed, we are delighted to see that one of our grant beneficiaries, Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative, has been able to penetrate the local market with some of their produce. We look forward to the impact the others will have on the sector.”
Damion Young of the CJSDI is enthusiastic about the group’s partnership with EFJ. “We have seen a significant increase in employment,” says Mr. Young. “We now have about 35 people employed, youth and adults. We have a network of farmers engaged in planting red peas and also peanuts, and several people work at the processing plant in Spalding. With additional EFJ funding, the group’s shade house project in Osbourne Store is now producing Scotch bonnet and sweet peppers.
Mr. Young added that “water is a challenge,” but rainwater harvesting is employed and there are plans to establish a catchment facility – an earthen pond – for irrigation.
Fifty community and civil society organizations are currently implementing projects to boost climate change adaptation in Jamaica after being awarded grants totaling J$228 million in October 2017 by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. Funding is provided through the Inter-American Development Bank under the Adaptation Programme and Finance Mechanism Project (AP&FM) of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR).“EFJ has been a major partner for us,” said Mr. Young of CJSDI. “One very important aspect has been hands-on training. Because of the focus on climate change and the environment, the farmers have become more aware of what it takes to practice sustainable agriculture.”