Drip-line irrigation to boost farming yield
The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is urging farmers in the New Forrest/Duff House sections of St Elizabeth to make use of a new drip-line irrigation scheme which has been introduced in the area.
Carlos Williams, senior work superintendent with the New Forrest/ Duff House irrigation project for the NIC, says this will increase efficiency by more than 90 per cent, while the farmers will save money on water costs and improve the effectiveness of fertilisers used.
The New Forrest/Duff House initiative is part of the project being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the NIC.
Hundreds to benefit
Under the project, some 486 farmers in southern Jamaica will benefit from on-farm drip-irrigation lines, as well as fertigation systems, which will result in increased crop yields.
The farmers benefiting from the drip-irrigation systems will also be provided with business development and organisational development support from the JSIF project.
Business and agriculture expertise will bolster the efforts of the farmers, while organisational support, through the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies, will enhance the legal framework within which the farmers will operate their respective businesses in a group structure.
Other communities in which the project is being implemented are Colbeck, Beacon Little Park, Yallahs, and Hounslow.
Financed under the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) - a project funded by the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank - the drip-irrigation scheme aims to address challenges that farmers currently face because of inadequate supply of water for irrigation.
The project is costing is almost $129 million and is targeting 243 acres.
Drip irrigation will result in a more efficient use of the available water for irrigation.
According to Williams, farmers will now have more to engage in other activities outside of irrigation, pointing out that the traditional "rainer" takes hours of use and is only 40 per cent effective.
"Now, they will come in the morning and turn it (the drip line) on for 15 minutes, and do the same in the evening. The drip has 95 per cent efficiency, with no wastage."
Vincent Thompson, agriculture specialist with JSIF, explains that farmers are now exposed to the vagaries of the weather brought on by climate change, with drought and flood phenomena impacting negatively on farming across Jamaica, and particularly St Elizabeth - the 'bread basket parish'.
The communities identified produce a wide range of vegetable crops, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, escallion, tomato, sweet and hot pepper, watermelon, and carrots, requiring a consistent supply of water.
Lack of water
During the dry season - January to April and June to August - farmers are severely restricted in their production because of a lack of water to irrigate their farms.
According to Thompson, without the proper irrigation infrastructure, farmers are unable to institute effective production planning.
"Therefore, they are unable to produce and maintain a consistent supply of their produce during the dry period. As a result, this impacts Jamaica's food-import bill because the crops we are unable produce are imported into the country for local consumption and usage by the hotel industry."