Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr reassured farmers affected by the drought that in addition to the ongoing support that is now being provided, additional support was underway.
The Minister spoke at the Press Briefing at the OPM on Friday (March 3), at which the Prime Minister spoke about the additional steps by the government to mitigate the effects of the drought now affecting the island.
Minister Charles Jr. said, “The agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate-based disasters, with severe weather conditions generally being a major challenge for the sector. This has resulted in estimated losses of approximately JMD $196 billion dollars between 2004 and 2017, leading to production losses in the agricultural sector. We are apprised of the urgency of a strategic response at this critical time to mitigate the fallout from the impact of the ongoing meteorological drought, especially as the sector accounts for 7.3% of Gross Domestic Product and directly impacts the livelihood of approximately 250,000 registered farmers.”
A Meteorological drought is defined usually based on the degree of dryness (in comparison to some “normal” or average amount) and the duration of the dry period.
The Minister highlighted the seven (7) consecutive Quarters of growth in the Agricultural sector to date, and the historical growth, and stressed the importance of not undoing this work. In that vein, the Ministry has so far instituted measures to build resilience within the sector to the tune of some JMD $90 million dollars with another JMD $110 million earmarked for additional drought mitigation measures.
The Minister further highlighted the support provided by the Ministry so far which includes:
- Providing trucked water to several drought affected farming communities, valued at over $JMD 25 million dollars. This is being provided to farmers free of cost and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) and RADA will increase their reach by 100% in the coming days,
- The NIC is slated to acquire an additional 4,000-gallon water truck by mid- March. This will bring the fleet currently transporting water to three (3) to boost its distribution in the most vulnerable farming communities.
Both RADA and the NIC will also expand their distribution capacity by contracting additional private providers to truck and distribute water to affected farmers,
- The Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) has provided drought mitigation support to the livestock sector to the tune of some JMD$8.97 million in broiler production support and approximately JMD$6.73 million towards small ruminant support for our farmers. They have been assisted with water tanks, chaffing machines, waterers, and other infrastructural support to ensure their continued operation and production,
- RADA has already engaged input suppliers to provide seeds valued at approximately $20 million. This will see an assortment of fruits and vegetable seeds being procured and distributed to our famers, to ensure continued production during this period,
- RADA has been supporting and will expand further the construction of micro dams in several production zones valued at approximately JMD$20 million. Ten (10) ponds have been completed so far and three (3) more are underway,
- Members of Parliament (MP) will assist in ensuring that support reaches the most vulnerable and affected in their respective communities. Their support will be engaged to quickly impact support for production in drought affected constituencies to the tune of JMD$34 million being disbursed immediately to RADA. RADA in tandem with the MPs will utilize its established farmer selection criteria to identify beneficiaries.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has made significant headway in providing irrigation support to our farmers through the Essex Valley Agricultural Development Project and the Southern Plains Agricultural Development Project (SPAD) Project – which represents the largest investment made by the Ministry to date.
Approximately $4 billion has been spent so far in retrofitting the farm-gate in the communities in the Amity Hall-Bridge Pen (St Catherine), Parnassus (Clarendon), and Essex Valley, St. Elizabeth with construction of infrastructure and systems with the capacity to supply water to these areas.
These projects seek to provide enhanced irrigation systems and services to an estimated 1600 hectares of land.The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is aware of the impact of the Agricultural sector and the critical role it plays in poverty alleviation, food security and securing livelihood in rural communities. They remain committed to supporting our farmers during this drought.