315 farmers benefit from irrigation consultancy project

A total of 315 farmers from 11 districts in St Thomas and St Andrew have benefited from irrigation equipment and techniques to boost crop production under the Irrigation Systems Consultancy Project.

The consultancy was executed through a partnership involving the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

The eight-month-long project, which began in July 2020 and ended last month, was a component under the wider Yallahs-Hope On-Farm Water Management Project. Under the initiative, farmers were equipped with rainwater harvesting sheds, drip irrigation systems and critical skills to improve irrigation.

Speaking at a JIS think tank on Tuesday, watershed officer at NEPA, Andr Reid, said that the project was a success despite the impact of the pandemic.

“There were moments where we had discussions with RADA and we would have heard that there are no tanks available, that there are no drip-irrigation systems available. So it was a whole different ball game in terms of implementing this component within a pandemic, but RADA stood their ground. They were able to pull this through despite the existing realities. They were able to deliver a successful project at the end of it,” he said.

Reid said that the farmers have been practising what they have learned. “Even now, from time to time, some of the farmers will WhatsApp me with images of how they are actually going about using some of the techniques that they would have learned from RADA to go out and supplement their income. One particular farmer, Mr Garfield, actually goes out and installs drip-irrigation systems now as part of his earning potential. So all of that is going beyond just what we would have tasked RADA with,” Reid said.

Director of project management and coordination at RADA, Dwayne Henry, said the farmers responded positively to the project and have seen marked improvements in crop yields. “We have farmers, currently, who are undertaking strawberry production, Irish potato, celery, onion [in] areas where you would not normally see those crops being planted. So, therefore, those high-value crops are now being enabled in those areas, further increasing the income of the farmers… because they now have a sustainable way of doing it,” he said.

The Irrigation Systems Consultancy project, said RADA, is aimed at provide capacity-building as well as solidify rainwater harvesting and irrigation practices.

The 315 farmers who benefited from the project hail from the communities of Mount Lebanon/Freetown, Content Gap, Bloxborough and Mavis Bank in St Andrew and Ness Castle, Richmond Gap, Minto, Penlyne Castle, Carrick Hill and Windsor Forest in St Thomas.

Other participating entities included the Forestry Department, Water Resources Authority, National Water Commission, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust, Meteorological Service of Jamaica, and the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

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