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Farmers press for climate-smart policy support

Published:Friday | March 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM
General manager of the PC Bank, Athelstan Bellamy (left), speaking with Daniel McGree, actuary at Impact Insurance, at the launch of the Accelerating the Adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Jamaica Conference at the Spanish Court Hotel on Monday.

The absence of clearly defined, state-sanctioned policy guidelines to support climate-smart initiatives was a major area of discontent for farmers who participated in Monday’s national conference on Accelerating the Application of Climate-Smart Agriculture Innovations and/or Technologies at the Spanish Court Hotel, St Andrew.

“There has to be a bridging of the gap in terms of what is happening on the ground and our policies at the end of the day. If you are going to have any kind of progress, you must have clear policies and programmes,” Dr Dale Rankine said in giving an update on feedback from some 50 small-scale farmers who participated in breakout sessions.

Senior director of technology, training and technical information, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Winston Shaw, also addressed the issue.

“Regardless of how many plans we have, how much is available, how much we are willing to do things, if it’s not driven by policy at the highest level, the government level, then you won’t have that sustained support. So the policy process is very important,” said Shaw.

The conference, held under the theme ‘Unlocking Jamaica’s Agricultural Growth Potential’, is part of the public-awareness strategy for ‘Accelerating the Adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Jamaica’, a project involving 5,000 small-scale farmers in the parishes of Portland, St Thomas and St Mary. The objective is to strengthen their resilience to climate extremes and improve the agricultural productivity and food security, as well as income, of the participant through widespread adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices.

A joint initiative of the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation, the Climate Change Division and RADA, the main objectives of the conference were to:

* Sensitise stakeholders on the role of the agricultural sector in achieving nationally determined commitments by Jamaica under the Paris Agreement.

* Create a pathway for continued and expanded adoption of climate-smart practices to move Jamaica towards climate resilience and food security.

* Obtain stakeholder and project priorities for the next 12 months.

The farmers, who fully participated in robust discussions and impressed with their vigorous participation, when polled at the end of the day, surprised with their identification of the need for strong policy support as the number-one priority. Even as the need for affordable financing was constantly raised through the day, it emerged as a third priority, behind the need for capacity support at different levels – including research and technical services.

Rankine identified the alignment of the agricultural sector with other national priorities.

“There are a number of policies that are in draft, [but] there is not a designated climate-change policy for the agricultural sector. I know there is a strategic plan that is under construction, but we really need something that is more targeted for the sector. So this is one of the challenges that we actually have.”