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Climate change threatening food security, warns RADA CEO

Published:Wednesday | July 31, 2019 | 12:25 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

The CEO of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Peter Thompson, has painted a grim picture of the implications of climate change on the island.

“What we are experiencing in the environment now is not normal,” he told Tuesday’s workshop on ‘Accelerating the Adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Jamaica’ at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

“What is happening threatens our food security, and we as agriculturalists and stakeholders have to put measures in place and be proactive in addressing the issue of climate change,” he warned.

“The situation is so severe Jamaica is already experiencing climate variability as evidenced by the fact that a couple of months ago, we had intense rainfall over a short period, followed by a dry spell, coupled with high winds which intensified the wilting of crops,” Thompson further advised.

An already bad situation is also being made worse by a proliferation of bush fires wreaking havoc on farms in St Mary, Thompson added. He said RADA was in the process of assessing the damage, which unofficial estimates put in excess of $400 million.

Statistics from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries show that between 1994 and 2010, Jamaica had lost in excess of $14 billion to hazards affecting the agricultural sector, including droughts, bush fires and flooding.

And the outlook is grim, Thompson noted.

“The mean temperature is projected to increase by [between] 0.47 and 1.17 degrees [Celsius] by 2030. If it is so hot already, can you imagine 10, 20 years down the line? The World Bank reports that by 2050, some 50 per cent of the arable agricultural land will become deserts if we don’t put the necessary measures in place to address that,” he said.

“So colleagues, we have to do our part, and RADA is resolute in addressing some of the concerns out in the fields, and one of the programmes we are pushing is the whole issue of water harvesting.”

While pointing out that nothing was wrong with the black tank project, Thompson cited the need to move away from it to a more sustainable system of harnessing water and conserving for future use. To this end, RADA has done an assessment of all public catchment facilities, including earthen ponds, to identify those in need of rehabilitation, with a view to putting them back in service.

“We have done an assessment of all the catchment areas in the island and identified that it will cost in excess of $200 million,” Thompson revealed.