- Supporting Jamaica’s water security drive in pursuit of growth, health & poverty reduction
Working with evidence that links improved water access to improved incomes, food security and growth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) multi country office in Jamaica has strategically partnered with 128 communities across the nation to expand water storage capacity by a combined 2,261,927 gallons over the last seven years.
The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme ( SGP) and Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (JCCCP), both implemented by UNDP, have made relatively small investments in water harvesting and storage facilities, with very encouraging returns worthy of replication, according to a World Water Day assessment carried out by the UNDP country office.
Evaluations of nine projects dating from 2013 to 2019 indicate that the water harvesting projects are still actively serving more than 135 000 persons in virtually every parish across the nation, months and years after project closure. The reports illustrate that these Projects have helped to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change by channelling good quality drinking water into pipes, and reversing downturn in crop harvests, caused by increasingly dry conditions.
“Even more encouraging is the impact on health and sanitation, sustainable agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and local economies, largely achieved in partnership with members of the community, UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio noted. “We are especially gratified that access to potable water may prove helpful in supporting the local fight against infectious diseases including COVID-19 in target communities and has proven to be particularly successful in boosting crop harvests in most instances,” she pointed out.
“On my recent field visit to the community of Richmond in St Ann, farmers who received water harvesting infrastructure under the JCCCP personally told me they had reaped 30 to 40 percent increases in harvests,” she reported.
Significant impacts were also recorded in communities near Colouden and Crooked River in the hills of Clarendon a few years ago under a SGP small grant of 50 000 USD (total project cost of 132 000 USD). Residents, who had never seen water in their pipes for more than 50 years, partnered with UNDP/SGP intent on accessing drinkable water, reducing water-borne diseases and increasing agricultural production by installing a gravity-fed system designed to channel water from a spring to a 22,000-gallon tank, then to six community ‘stand pipes’ serving more than 6300 residents. “We can see it has made a difference in everyone’s life … people are now able to get water on a regular basis. Children go to school early and are no longer late; new shops are being set up; new houses and buildings being constructed; and people are returning to the area,” Samuel Fearon, then President, Colouden-Krall Community Action Committee has observed.
Recent field visits and reports indicate that the school garden component of the JCCCP, implemented in partnership with the Jamaica 4H Clubs and the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, yielded: unprecedented harvests as high as 5000 pounds for just one type of produce; creation of new income sources for participating schools; expansion of school feeding programmes; and notably, an unprecedented 100% completion rate for agricultural studies-related School Based Assessments at the Denbigh High School.
The investments by GEF SGP and JCCCP focused on rehabilitation and construction of water community storage tanks; construction of earth ponds for irrigation; establishment of water harvesting systems including procurement of black storage tanks, conveyance systems and drip irrigation hoses, and construction of aquaponics greenhouse and fish tanks to support sustainable livelihoods.
With these investments making additional water available, communities have been able to improve standards of living and livelihoods by: Exploiting the potential of medicinal plants and establishing aquaponic ventures to enhance alternative livelihoods; expanding agroforests, crops and livestock for food security; expanding water supply to school communities and making it available to surrounding communities. The infrastructure is maintained by local community councils and projects have already been replicated and upscaled.
Ms Antonio says the World Water Day reflection has been useful in underscoring best practices and lessons learnt, while justifying the focus of UNDP, GEF SGP and JCCCP on water harvesting as a viable channel for growth, health and poverty reduction. She called for more strategic partnerships to this end, and applauded government’s efforts to expand water harvesting and access to underserved communities especially in rural areas.