Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Gov’t ramping up response as water crisis worsens

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2023 | 12:56 AM
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr addressing a press briefing on Wednesday.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr addressing a press briefing on Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Pearnel Charles Jr said the Government will be making its largest capital investment ever in irrigation at $4.4 billion this financial year as Jamaicans continue to brace for the negative effects of the current drought,

This, he said, will be done to bring relief to farmers across the island to ensure food security and control the increasing food prices.

“ ... We understand the need to build resilience so that we can have a sustainable sector. That means understanding that we must move away from rainfall dependency,” Charles said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The minister said there will be intensified focus on the drought-mitigation programme and the building out of the irrigation networks in Essex Valley and Pedro Plains in St Elizabeth, the island’s Breadbasket Parish.

He added that a drought-mitigation team is consistently assessing, evaluating, and designing ways to provide support to the nation’s farmers.

Some farmers islandwide are also incurring losses as a result of pests, such as the beet armyworm, even as they grapple with water-supply concerns.

“Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) continue to provide trucked water to several drought-affected, farming communities [for] over $25 million. This is being provided to farmers free of cost, and we intend to increase their reach by 100 per cent in the coming days,” Charles said of the Government’s response as he noted that an additional 4,000-gallon water truck will be acquired by mid-March to boost the response.

Members of parliaments (MPs) will be engaged to assist in communities, with $34 million being disbursed immediately to RADA for access by the parliamentarians to provide support in drought-affected constituencies.

RADA will work with the MPs to establish the criteria to identify beneficiaries.

RADA will further expand the construction of micro dams in several production zones valued at approximately $20 million. Ten of these dams have been built, three are being built, and there are two more to come through the Hills to Oceans Programme.

The livestock sector will also see $8.97 million in broiler production support and $6.73 million going towards small-ruminant support. These farmers are to be assisted with water tanks, chaffing machines, waterers, and other support to ensure their continued production.