INMED Caribbean empowering women through agriculture
Jamaican female farmers participate in an aquaponics training workshop from INMED Aquaponics.

As women heads of household struggle to feed their families in the face of food insecurity and the novel coronavirus pandemic, Jamaican non-governmental organisation (NGO) INMED Caribbean has embarked on an innovative solution that is spreading across the country.

Since 2011, INMED Caribbean has been helping small-scale farmers increase their production capacity and adapt to climate change realities by implementing an intensive form of farming called aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a climate-adaptive agriculture technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less crop production) in a closed symbiotic system that produces year-round crops at a rate roughly 10 times higher than traditionally farmed plots of equivalent size. Aquaponics consumes up to 90 per cent less water, is scalable to any space (urban or rural), and is resilient to destructive climate change events.

“INMED Aquaponics® is a particularly powerful solution for providing women with a means to be self-reliant and become successful business owners,” said INMED Caribbean project manager in Jamaica Earl Ashley. “As a result of the free aquaponics training initiative, more women can strengthen income generation for their families.”

As of June 2021 – 62 women have completed aquaponics training with INMED Caribbean and 153 women are currently registered.

Allicia Lewis, a 70-year-old retired cook of John's Hall, Clarendon, suggested, “Exposure to aquaponics through INMED has been a blessing for me. At my age, it is wonderful to find a means of earning that is not taxing on my body. I don't have to bend as much and I can grow quite a lot in the 1,600 square-foot space. I am not fortunate enough to have a pension but through aquaponics, I can still survive”.

Lewis is part of the John's Hall Community Development Committee which was gifted a commercial aquaponics system through the Pilot Project for Climate Resilience (PPCR), funded by the IDB.

Lewis' neighbours have also embraced aquaponics. “A lot of women see aquaponics as a path to a better life for their families,” she said. “When we have workdays to take care of the system, they all come out and get the job done.”

In addition to technical training in aquaponics farming, INMED Caribbean's programme provides free training in how to run and grow a business, including access to affordable financing if needed and links to markets — as well as ongoing technical support from INMED-trained Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) agents.

“The training I have received from INMED has helped me to become a better farmer,” said Lewis. “I keep records of the dates when I plant my crops and I keep note if anything is off with them. I also keep invoices now so that I can track my expenses. It really helps.”

Because INMED Aquaponics® is far less labour intensive than traditional farming, it is also attractive to youth and people with disabilities. “For more than a decade, INMED has implemented aquaponics systems in schools, Metcalfe Detention Centre and Mustard Seed Community's Jacobs Ladder facility for people living with disabilities, among many other projects across Jamaica,” noted Ashley. “With our free training, marginalised populations have a unique opportunity to own their businesses and earn sustainable livelihoods. We believe this model of farming has the potential to expand and provide employment for Jamaican communities struggling with climate change and food insecurity.”

Female farmers pay keen attention to a demonstration by a member of the INMED team.

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