Mon | Feb 6, 2023

UN agencies to bolster Jamaica’s resilience to food, water insecurity

Published:Saturday | October 1, 2022 | 12:08 AM
Van Steen
Van Steen

THE UNITED Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will implement a joint programme aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s resilience to food and water insecurity.

The project, funded largely by the European Union, through the United Nations (UN) Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund, was launched yesterday at the ROK Hotel in Kingston by Rural Development Minister Desmond McKenzie, and Dr Garry Conille, UN resident coordinator.

The project seeks to find solutions to enable Jamaica, as a small island developing state (SIDS), to combat current and future global food-water-energy crises.

“It’s hard to overstate how climate variability, biodiversity erosion, and the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the fragility of Jamaica’s food systems,” said European Union Ambassador to Jamaica Marianne Van Steen.

“Additionally, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, compounded food security issues. Therefore, we welcome this timely and important project aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s resilience to food and water insecurity,” she stated while addressing the launch event.

In Jamaica, agriculture accounts for 8.68 per cent of gross domestic product, with sugar cane, banana, coffee, cocoa, citrus, and pimento being the main agricultural crops, which are highly dependent on water resources. In rural Jamaica, small-scale and women farmers tend to be more susceptible to water insecurity and hardships while also representing an untapped potential for innovation and community development.

Given that Jamaica’s food production sector accounts for the widest gender gap in the Caribbean, with 30 per cent of registered farmers being women, the project activities will focus on empowering rural women farmers in Jamaica’s breadbasket belt of St Elizabeth, Clarendon, southern St Ann, and Manchester.

“Rural women are among the most vulnerable groups in Jamaican society. We aim to understand the water management challenges of rural women in the farming ecosystem and to empower them towards sustainable food production, water efficiency, and environmental best practices,” said Dr Anna Paolini, director of UNESCO office for the Caribbean.

“Climate change, food security, and environmental degradation all influence migration patterns. For this reason, IOM is coordinating with [the] Government and our international partners to address the environmental drivers of migration,’” added IOM’s Keisha Livermore.

“This includes rural to urban migration and urbanisation patterns in countries like Jamaica. IOM is looking at the way that food insecurity triggers displacement with a particular focus on the way gender dimensions,” Livermore continued.

Paolini said “the UNESCO-IOM joint programme has the potential to become a model that catalyses innovative water management and drive change in the water-food nexus in the region”.

Under the joint programme, the UN agencies will deploy household data and information collection, in the form of surveys for national and sectoral representation (quantitative), and conduct key informant interviews (qualitative), in order to produce evidence on current food insecurity and livelihood impact trends in Jamaica. Research conducted during the project will be used to close existing gaps in Jamaica’s food, water and farming database and inform the design of programmes aimed at strengthening the farming ecosystem and help to mitigate rural-urban migration.

“The goal post is to ensure we leave no one behind and that Jamaica strengthens its resilience to climate change and shocks and that we do this through sustainable natural resource management,” Conille said.

“We are confident that this joint programme is aligned with Jamaica’s priorities and the vision to advance the sector agenda and have particularly positive impact for rural area populations and women farmers,” he added.

Project partners include the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers, Water Resource Authority, National Water Commission, The University of the West Indies, Social Development Commission, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Northern Caribbean University, National Environment and Planning Agency, Statistical Institute of Jamaica, UN Resident Coordinator Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

An important aspect of the project, which will run until the end of December this year, is that the staff in the relevant government agencies will be trained to use the tools developed during the project.