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4-H gears up for climate change

Published:Wednesday | August 14, 2019 | 12:05 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Sea grapes.
Sea grapes.

The Jamaica 4-H Clubs is undertaking research on new food sources to stave off any potential negative impact from the loss of some traditional crops and foods because of climate change.

Among those being eyed are the sea grape, whose commercial value has never been explored despite its abundance in coastal communities; the hibiscus flower, which has been sampled but is yet to be produced in volumes; and fennel, a flowering plant species in the carrot family.

“We are basically looking at the impact of climate change on agriculture, and it can hinder the growth and development of plants, eventually resulting in the loss of some plants as we know them. So we are looking beyond that, at crops which grow in the wild and are more likely to withstand the impact of climate change,” said Sandra Ramsay, regional manager of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs Western Region.

Other crops such as mulberry, jackfruit and lemon are also being researched, with jellies, jams and preserves being explored to extend their shelf live and enhance food security.

“This way, they can still be on our tables and will be available to our youngsters, who can taste and appreciate our fruits, even after they may be gone,” Ramsay disclosed.

“Sea grapes and hibiscus are also out there. We need to remind people that it is related to the sorrel, which they know. And then there is the sea grape, which is a fruit usually eaten raw when ripe, but many Jamaicans pass them without even realising their nutritional value,” she added.

“What we are doing is moving the crop from the field into production, with long-term potential. So, for instance, you reap coconuts, but beyond the oil, what about coconut cream, coconut soap? So you can enjoy the taste and fragrance long after the crop has ended.”

And then there is mulberry, which is cultivated in Roehampton in western Jamaica.

“So we gather our mulberry and process them on site at our home economics lab and we make our mulberry jam,” said Ramsay.

Ramsay was quick to point out that all the items on display at the recent Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show are available in the project shop at the 4-H headquarters in Kingston and are also available in batches.

“Any items that you see right here in Denbigh and you want to order your batch, we will make it as soon as possible,” she boasted.