Water shortage hampering parish's growth
As the second largest agricultural parish in Jamaica, Manchester has, over the years, contributed consistently to the reduction of the import bill.
However, with growing concerns about the water shortage being experienced there, some farmers are left with two options: to cease their livelihood or diversify their produce.
With a considerable number of wells existing in select locations, president of the Manchester Parish Development Committee, Anthony Freckleton, is adamant that they be restored.
"I believe that we need to get some water for irrigation purposes in south Manchester. There's a well that has been lying their idle sitting in an 1,100-foot aquifer of water. We need to get that up. We can't have a viable agricultural sector by just depending on rainfall, there needs to be storage, chill rooms ... that's how modern agriculture systems work."
With most of the water distributed to Mandeville coming from Porus and Gutters, Freckleton said that technology needs to fuel how things are done, in an effort to avoid problems of water shortage.
Councillor of the Porus division, Claudia Morant-Baker, revealed that there were more than 15 wells in her division, but water accessibility still posed a challenge.
But according to councillor of the Alligator Pond division, Darlton Brown, the farmers in his area have been able to set up networks, a move he believes should be replicated among farming communities.
Making the suggestion during the Gleaner Municipal Corporation Forum, Brown said he believed that stronger farming networks will centralise the resources necessary for increased, consistent and high-quality production.
... Diversify and diversify some more
One other foreseen solution to Manchester's water problem, according to Local Economic Development Officer Angella Edwards, is to take advantage of monies received from the bauxite levy to stem water shortage.
But while this may work in some areas, Anthony Freckleton, president of the Manchester Parish Development Committee, does not believe the money is enough is to sustain farmers.
To this, field supervisor at the Social Development Commission (SDC), Oren Osbourne, says a diversification of produce will have to come into play.
"SDC is initiating several programmes through their Local Economic Development Support groups. We are engaging the groups to think on opportunities and capitalising on them ... apiculture, clothing and textile, and agroprocessing, honey production. It's about seeking alternatives."
He explained that so far, individuals have attended international business conferences and returned equipped with the knowledge to conduct training seminars with those interested in diversifying their agricultural businesses.