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Bad farming practices targeted through H2O initiative

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, MOAF, is roping in farmers on its efforts to safeguard the country’s watersheds.

Called Jamaican Path from Hills to Ocean, or H2O, the initiative aims to tamp down on malpractices in farming techniques that could worsen the effects of climate change on the country’s reservoirs.

The project is targeting at least 200 farmers across Castleton, St Mary; Moneague and Ocho Rios in St Ann; Winn-Morass, Trelawny; Mason River, which borders Clarendon and St Ann; and Hellshire, St Catherine and will run for little less than four years, with an estimated time of nine months spent on each area.

The agriculture ministry is now on the hunt for a contractor to work alongside lead agency on the project, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, RADA, on a combination of 12-weekly theoretical and practical sessions, which will cover topics such as agro-meteorology, inclusive of weather data forecasting and interpretation; general land husbandry; agro-forestry; farming as a business; erosion control; on-farm water harvesting; and crop diversification.

The H2O project, which is costing $21 million, is backed by the European Union. It’s broadly centred on the protection of three watershed management units, or WMUs, namely Wag Water bordering St Mary and St Andrew; Rio Nuevo in St Mary; and the Rio Bueno/White River in the bordering parishes of St Ann and Trelawny. Overtime, the project will be expanded to other affected watershed areas.

The contractor, which is still to be determined, is also being tasked with updating the current RADA Farmer Field School workbooks with applicable Climate-Smart Land husbandry intervention practices, customising the existing Farmer Field School curriculum to meet the specific knowledge needs and practices of farmers within the target locations, train at least five RADA staff, and to train at least five RADA extension personnel.

Farmer Field School, or FFS, a project that dates back at least a decade, was developed by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank, as part of the country’s strategic programme for increasing Jamaica’s resilience to climate change.

Each FFS should reach some 30 farmers per target area. The selected contractor will also be responsible for conducting open-field training sessions and group farmer field tours in the project areas.

The project, which is consistent with the overall thrust of the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus initiative in small island developing states to handle climate related stresses and shock, is not only expected to improve degraded WMUs, but also coastal wetlands and sea grass beds.

According to MOAF, Jamaica’s environmental issues, within watersheds and coastal areas largely include the improper disposal of waste such as plastic packaging material and sedimentation in the marine and freshwater environment. The effects are said to be damaging to the economic, social and cultural resources within the associated communities.

Over the four years of the H2O programme, the project will be broken down into three components, which will be shared between the RADA and the National Environment and Planning Agency.

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