Women embrace sustainable agriculture in JamaicaSunday, August 22, 2021
AGRICULTURE has been an integral part of the Jamaican economy, and for many years, local agriculture accounted for most of the food consumed in the country. As climate change disrupts the food supply and production on the island, INMED Aquaponics is leading the charge to assist farmers in implementing aquaponics systems to ensure sustainable livelihoods and food security for local communities.
One such farmer is Vanessa Green from Porus, Manchester. She was previously involved in livestock farming but decided to focus on fish farming — a long-time interest. She had the basic knowledge of the process as well as some equipment to start on this new venture and reached out to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for technical guidance. RADA connected her to the senior regional technical officer at INMED Caribbean, who explained the benefits of aquaponics and INMED's free training programme for farmers.
“I decided to go through the training, because after I received the initial information from the INMED team, I wanted to learn more,” Green said. In addition to learning how aquaponics is climate resilient, less labour intensive and yields significantly higher harvests than traditional farming year-round, Green was also impressed with the environmental benefits.
“Because aquaponics doesn't use dirt, there is no need for certain herbicides, fertilisers and chemicals,” Green said. “The fish provides most of the nutrients you need for your system.”
Green completed the online course promptly and proceeded to the setup of her backyard system under the guidance of INMED Caribbean's technical team. “The great thing about INMED Aquaponics is that the system is scalable, and you can move at your own pace,” she noted. “You can start small with just one tank and then you can build your system and increase as you see fit.”
Green bought discarded totes and repurposed them as fish tanks and grow beds.
“INMED's guidance through the process of setting up my system was extremely valuable,” Green said. “INMED helped me with plumbing work, setting up of tables and designing the layout and formation of my system. They even advised me on the purchase of the correct air pump, mesh, water pump and air stones.”
More and more farmers across Jamaica have taken the aquaponics plunge and are now producing enough vegetables to supply their families and can sell to others. Still others are in various stages of implementation. One such farmer is Felicia DeSouza from Lincoln, Manchester, who found INMED Caribbean while researching aquaponics online. DeSouza has always been interested in farming and wants to contribute to the vision 2030 strategy for food security. She is building out her commercial aquaponics system with the assistance of a neighbour who has a thriving hydroponics system.
DeSouza completed the INMED Aquaponics training and is in the process of getting her system up and running.
“INMED Caribbean has been great during this process,” she said. “They have helped me with any issue I've faced while sorting everything out. INMED also mentored and coached us through the financing process and was with us the entire journey.”
INMED Caribbean has also trained RADA agents across the island to provide ongoing technical assistance to farmers like DeSouza and Green when they need it.
Dr Lorna Scarlett, RADA senior livestock parish officer for Manchester, recommends INMED's aquaponics training for all farmers interested in fish farming and vegetable production. Dr Scarlett was one of the first RADA agents to be trained in INMED Aquaponics in 2018.
“You can produce fish and vegetables simultaneously, and you can set a higher price for the vegetables since they don't contain harmful pesticides,” she said. “And because you can do aquaponics in smaller spaces, it's a new way of rearing fish without having a pond. I always tell people about INMED Aquaponics and highly recommend the training.”