Jamaica’s Chief Technical Director for Policy, Planning and Evaluation in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Yaneke Watson, says the Government is committed to increasing access to irrigation services in order to ensure a competitive and productive agricultural sector.
“The Government of Jamaica is cognisant that the role of irrigation and water management in increasing food production is essential and will require expansion of irrigated areas and improved management of existing water supplies,” he noted.
Mr. Watson was speaking during the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation’s fourth Virtual Information Session on Tuesday (January 12).
He said agriculture has become “the most important sector to our development”, noting that it is the area that will provide food security and “drive us forward”.
Mr. Watson said that the National Water Sector Policy highlights that irrigated agriculture in Jamaica consumes a significant portion of ground and surface water resources and contributes to agricultural production across the country.
“It (irrigated agriculture) is estimated to contribute 50 per cent to national food production and has played a major role in generating employment opportunities in rural areas and providing for the rural poor. Irrigated agriculture also plays an important role as a significant contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP), rural development, the economies of farm families and rural communities,” he further pointed out.
Mr. Watson argued that better management of the country’s water resources is essential for the continued productivity of the agricultural sector, noting that the National Water Policy seeks to provide a framework for the efficient use of water across all sectors.
The objectives of the policy are to effectively manage water supply in utility and non-utility service areas; to increase resilience to climatic shocks, such as drought; to ensure effective management of wastewater; and to encourage rainwater harvesting, both as a primary source of access and as a drought management mechanism.
Additionally, the policy seeks to provide sufficient water for achieving food security by improving irrigation services; ensure effective flood water control; and establish policy, programmes and put physical structures in place for climate adaptation and energy efficiency in the water sector. It also seeks to facilitate private-sector participation in the water sector.
Mr. Watson said the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation remains committed to collaborating with its key stakeholders to achieve the goal and objectives of the policy.
In keeping with the policy, the Ministry’s Water Policy and Monitoring Branch has been hosting virtual information sessions on water and water-related topics in collaboration with key stakeholders.
During the first three sessions, the public has been sensitised to issues relating to water and health, major initiatives that have been undertaken in the water sector, including measures undertaken to mitigate drought; and the practice of rainwater harvesting.
The discussions during Tuesday’s session focused on water and its importance to agriculture.
During the forum, Design Engineer, National Irrigation Commission, Renford Smith; and Senior Director, Technology, Training and Technical Information, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Winston Shaw, gave presentations on some of the measures the agencies have been undertaking to ensure that the agricultural sector continues to be productive, cost-efficient and competitive.