Agriculture ministry excited about aquaponics expansion
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green (centre) poseswith Dr Charlene Ashley, international business strategist /consultant; and Earl Ashley, projects director, The Consultancy Inc.

A high-level courtesy call by non-profit organisation INMED Caribbean on Minister Floyd Green and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has resulted in an endorsement from the minister for the organisation's Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA) initiative.

The call included representatives from the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), 4H Clubs, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), National Fisheries Authority as well as business consultants and technical advisors.

INMED Caribbean and the Ministry of Agriculture will be exploring a collaboration to promote and encourage the institutionalisation of aquaponics in schools as a viable agricultural technology to combat climate change. This will be embarked upon through a proposed partnership with the Ministry of Education and synergies with the Jamaica 4-H Clubs as well as deepening the current partnership with RADA while engaging with the JAS and the Fisheries Division.

The discussions are taking place amidst the current pandemic which has created numerous global environmental, social and economic challenges. The INMED Caribbean team, since 2017 through funding by IDB Labs, has been seeking to build capacity in aquaponics production locally with a number of initiatives aimed at building a local aquaponics industry, as a response to climate change and its impacts on local food security.

According to Project Manager Earl Ashley, “The onslaught of COVID forces us to look at the 'sustainability corridor' which now requires innovations exceeding traditional paradigms”.

Through the IDB Lab-funded programme, INMED has created a framework for the success of aquaponic enterprises, through training, technical support, the provision of favourable loan terms through partnering financial institutions and the negotiations for access to markets for aquaponic produce.

Aquaponics is a climate-adaptive agriculture technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less crop production). Aquaponics consumes up to 90 per cent less water, is scalable to any space (urban or rural) and is resilient allowing farmers, entrepreneurs and householders to combat weather as it recycles the water in the system, allowing for healthy plant growth through droughts and in areas with little water.

The programme mitigates against climate-related threats to the agricultural sector that affect vulnerable farmers without the technology, knowledge, and financing to implement adaptive measures.

Project manager for INMED Caribbean, Earl Ashley, welcomed the minister's positive response, noting, “We are happy to have the minister of agriculture take such a keen interest in the aquaponics technology as aquaponics presents a practical option for those who want to make a living from agriculture, allowing for shorter crop cycles and higher yields within limited spaces. Aquaponics not only presents a sustainable way to improve rural livelihoods and enables the production of high-quality crops as a source of income but also allows persons within the city create great income earning opportunities within their own backyards.”

Minister Green stated stated that, “Expanding the size of Jamaica's agriculture sector and creating opportunities for sustainable and climate-resilient farming is of the utmost importance for the Jamaica Government.“

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