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DROUGHT CRISIS: Food shortage looms - Denbigh to explore solutions to dry spell

Published:Monday | July 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Senator Norman Grant, JAS president.
Senator Norman Grant, JAS president.
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 Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Senator Norman Grant, is in full support of using treated effluent to irrigate crops in the agriculture sector, as part of a long-term solution to Jamaica's recurring water woes.

"I unequivocally support the position that a part of the strategy to deal with irrigation must be how we treat the effluent and make it compatible to be used for irrigation water," Grant told The Gleaner.

He said the high-cost factor was the main reason this system has not yet been implemented; however, under the climate-change initiative, Jamaica can now seek grant funding, as well as source long-term financing to put in place the necessary infrastructure to have treated effluent in full use in the agriculture sector.

The use of treated effluent to irrigate crops was one of the recommendations Basil Fernandez, managing director of the Water Resources Authority, posited to The Gleaner last week, as part of a comprehensive, multi-tier approach to Jamaica's water problems.

Both Grant and Fernandez pointed out that irrigating crops with wastewater treated by treatment/sewage plants is a common practice in countries around the world.

Grant said just recently, on a trip to Kenya, Africa, which was experiencing extended drought, he saw where they were able to maintain a healthy coffee crop by irrigating with treated effluent.

Grant, the chief executive officer of the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, said they have just completed an investment of $100 million to build a plant to treat liquid waste and break the water down to irrigation standard for use on the farm.

"Climate change is going to continue, so what we need to do is to ensure that we use this opportunity to implement strategies to fix the problem. I support the view that the country is not short of water to meet the demands, we just need to develop strategies and implement solutions to deal with the problem," he said.

GREAT PLATFORM

The impact of climate change, its effect on the agriculture sector, and possible solutions will be on the agenda at this year's Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, scheduled for this weekend, from August 1-3, at the Denbigh Showground in May Pen, Clarendon.

"Denbigh is a tremendous platform to launch a major public-education programme on water solutions and strategies, as well as re-energise the efforts of our farmers, sensitise policymakers, get the private sector to come to the table and create opportunities. This will be a call to action," Grant said.

"However, notwithstanding the extended drought period that we are experiencing, we should not panic, as it is our considered view that the intervention by the Government will be effective."

Being staged at a cost of $75 million this year, the Denbigh Show will feature approximately 200 exhibitors, a farmers' market, symposiums, among other highlights, from both local and overseas participants.

Grant is expecting that it will create approximately $1 billion worth of business for Jamaica.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com