Work to start soon on Essex Valley irrigation project
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said development of the Essex Valley irrigation project in St Elizabeth is expected to start within the next three months.
"This project will positively impact the livelihoods of over 700 farmers on 1,700 acres of land through the provision of irrigation water and increased access of our agricultural produce to local and international markets," he noted.
Minister Shaw was speaking during the 66th Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show at the Denbigh Showground in May Pen, Clarendon, on Saturday.
The Essex Valley development is being funded through a grant of £35.5 million from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF), which is administered by the Caribbean Development Bank.
In addition to improving irrigation systems, the project entails other components to boost agriculture in Essex Valley.
These include training for farmers and other stakeholders in food-safety standards and climate-smart agriculture practices; design and construction of a photovoltaic plant to power the irrigation system and related administrative buildings; financing for a climate vulnerability assessment study to enhance the sustainability of the systems developed under the project; development of guidelines to support the participation of men, women, youth, and persons with disabilities; and an operational plan to enhance the viability and sustainability of the facilities and services.
IMPLEMENTATION OF CLIMATE-SMART STRATEGIES TOP PRIORITY
In the meantime, Shaw said the urgent implementation of climate-smart strategies is a top priority in order to achieve increased and sustainable agricultural production.
"We have identified a number of urgent and critical imperatives for the sector, (such as) the provision of more irrigation systems - and these include small irrigation systems that are smart that can be used on hillside farming - and implementing more drought-resistant measures such as water harvesting and storage," he noted.
Other strategies include climate-smart farming methods; application of new technologies, to include drones, for crop forecasting and other diagnostic applications; coordinated value-chain partnerships and linkages between agriculture and industry; and increased efforts to establish agricultural insurance schemes.
Minister Shaw noted that over the past five years, the agriculture sector in the Caribbean has been affected by shifts in weather patterns.
"We have experienced significant episodes of prolonged drought; frequent, intense rainfall; flooding; and hurricanes that could result in losses estimated at US$22 billion annually by 2050 throughout the Caribbean," he said.