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The Lititz community in the south eastern plains of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica has a historical pattern of relatively low rainfall with an annual average of 1285mm. Water is a scare resource in this area and the frequent drought affecting this part of the island impacts their lives as they depend on water for irrigating their crops and sustaining the lives of their families.
"We in this area of Lititz - it's a very dry area. Seems as if we are in the rain shadow" stated Vincent White, a community member, a farmer himself and the president of the Production Marketing Organization (PMO) of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for Lititz.
As a result, rainwater harvesting is of critical importance to the livelihood of the residents. This was soon realized by the Moravian missionaries who embarked on the erection of various catchment tanks in the community in the 1800s for harnessing water for domestic and agricultural purposes. The community of Lititz is still primarily dependant on them; however the catchment tanks have been seriously damaged over time and need to be restored.
Joy Burke, Howard Simpson and Winston Robinson are among the farmers living in Lititz who must face this challenging situation every day. "Many times the farmers suffer for water; we lose a lot of crops because of drought. We don't have water so we have to depend on rainfall. Water is life" stressed Joy and Howard.
The farmers in this area are categorically small farmers with an average age of 45 years. Agricultural crops include melons, scallion, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, sweet pepper, cassava and cabbage.The inability to harness water for agricultural and domestic purposes has resulted in some farmers abandoning their farms while others resort to the felling of trees for charcoal production to augment their income. These practices have negative impacts on both the community and the environment on a whole, resulting in socio-economic problems and land degradation with the likelihood of producing more severe incidents of drought.
The National Irrigation Commission Limited (NIC), a local partner of UNDP, is directly addressing the drought issues affecting Joy, Howard, Winston and the community of Lititz by initiating a project which aims to resuscitate the 6 million gallon capacity rain water catchment tank built by the Moravian Missionaries. The tank will serve for the storage of water, which will permit the farmers to irrigate the two (2) hectares of vegetables they grow.
"This will have a big impact on the life of the community and the farmers" stated Joy. Howard added "as long as we have water and the rain harvesting system going on alright everybody will benefit - myself and other community members will. We can have a nice crop and the community can be better than how it was before."
The project, titled Small-Scale Irrigation System supported by Rainwater Harvesting, is designed not only to rehabilitate the rainwater harvesting system but also to provide the community with a drip irrigation system powered by solar power. Training sessions and on-farm demonstrations will be organized for the farmers to increase the awareness of land degradation and desertification issues as well as to introduce them to better agricultural practices aimed at the improvement of the crop's productivity, efficient use of water and the reduction of soil loss. This initiative will provide the farmers with the knowledge needed to work their land today and ensure that future generations will inherit the security of fruitful crops, income from the farms and a safe environment: a concept at the core of sustainable land management.
"If the farmers can see their crops flowering and producing more, it gives them the impetus to go on. When one farmer has a plot, we must remember he has to hire other people. People to clear the land; people to mulch the land and so on. So there goes - it's like a chain reaction that builds the community. And as a matter of fact, that's exactly what communities need - a building factor. And here in Lititz, we're going to utilize farming as that" stated Mr. White describing how the project is going to impact the community of Lititz.
The impact of this intervention is expected to be felt not only by the 14 farmers living in Lititz but also by approximately 300 farmers from the surrounding communities of Savannah, Gaze Land, Downes and Stephen's Run, who will benefit when the tank is resuscitated. These benefits will include, but will not be limited to, an increase in annual rainfall, less soil erosion and deforestation, greater yield in agricultural production and an increase in socio-economic activities and status.
The Small-Scale Irrigation System supported by Rainwater Harvesting project is implemented by the PMO of RADA under the guidance of the project's technical team comprising RADA, the Jamaica Agricultural Society, the PMO and the Forestry Department. Activities to be undertaken include clearing of site, restoration of the catchment tank to prevent leakages, erection of a small-scale drip system, training of a total of 30 farmers through seminars and on-farm demonstration activities throughout the project period.
The project, with a total budget of US$70,030.23, started in November 2011 and is scheduled to finish June 2012. The official launch ceremony took place on March 15, 2012 in Lititz. All the stakeholders involved, including the local community and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, attended the ceremony.
The Small-Scale Irrigation System supported by Rainwater Harvesting project is one of the components of a wider project titled Capacity Building for Sustainable Land Management in Jamaica to address Land Degradation in Jamaica. This overall project with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is executed by UNDP, and implemented by the Forestry Department on behalf of the Government of Jamaica.
Local Media Coverage:
RJR NEWS - "St. Elizabeth Farmers to Benefit from Rainwater Harvesting Project "; March 18, 2012
Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Television Programmes - GOJ Update Friday; March 16, 2012
Jamaica Information Service (JIS) - "St. Elizabeth Farmers to Benefit from Rainwater Harvesting Project"; March 18, 2012
TVJ - UNDP HELP ESTABLISH SMALL IRRIGATION SYSTEMS; date Aired: 3/18/2012
Jamaica Observer - "St Elizabeth farmers to get rainwater"; March 17, 2012