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243 farmers certified in climate-smart techniques

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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Two hundred and forty-three farmers in St Thomas and St Andrew are now certified in climate-smart farming techniques to improve their produce while protecting their lands and the island's water supply.

At a recent graduation ceremony held at the Mona Visitor's Lodge and Conference Centre in Kingston, a cohort of 166 farmers received certificates in climate-smart land husbandry training after completing a 13-week practical programme called Farmer Field School.

The graduates are from Windsor Forest, Ness Castle and Richmond Gap in St Thomas, as well as the St Andrew communities of Mavis Bank and Bloxburgh. All form part of the Yallahs River and Hope River Watershed Management Units (WMUs).

These WMUs account for seven per cent of the island's farm lands and are the source of almost half of the potable water supplied to the Kingston Metropolitan Area and its environs.

The Farmer Field School programme is coordinated under the National Environment and Planning Agency's GOJ/GEF/IDB Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Areas Project. The training is facilitated with the technical expertise of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the Forestry Department and the Jamaica Fire Brigade.

Nelsa English-Johnson, Yallahs Hope Watershed project manager, said the recent graduating cohort brings to 243 the number of farmers who have been certified by the programme.

“Over the past two years, 428 farmers from nine communities have been trained. With 243 graduating, it means that 57 per cent of our farmers who enrol in the programme are committing to improving their practices, not only for themselves but for the lives of their families,” English-Johnson said.

During the programme, farmers learn and implement on their steep Blue Mountain range farms techniques that lessen the occurrence of soil erosion and landslides, and prevent and manage forest fires to improve their produce, secure their livelihoods and protect the waterways.

Everton Henry, Richmond Gap farmer, was delighted to learn how to construct a ballasted waterway and gully plug to reduce the erosion that usually happens due to heavy rains. The technique utilises rocks and old tyres to create a channel that leads and slows the pace of surface water.

“When I look at the deterioration of the land, all the soil is washing away. This (ballasted waterway and gully plug) is new to me, but I am so happy with what is happening. Things like this will save the road and my farm from storm water,” said Henry.

In 2017 a total of 77 farmers from the St Andrew communities of Content Gap and Westphalia and the St Thomas communities of Penlyne Castle and Windsor Castle graduated from the programme.

The Yallahs Hope Project is a five-year programme aimed at improving the conservation and management of biodiversity and lands within the Yallahs River and Hope River Watershed Management areas by implementing sustainable agriculture, forestry, land management, and livelihood practices within targeted communities. Both WMUs are classified as severely degraded due to extreme levels of deforestation, forest fires and land degradation.

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