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2022: Emergency mode to protect the environment
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2022: Emergency mode to protect the environment

It’s 9 a.m. and Mount Airy, a rural area in central Jamaica, is already hot. As cars trundle along unpaved roads in the region, chocolate-brown dust clouds rise from behind their rear wheels. 

The Mount Airy Farmers group is holding a morning meeting here, at 500m above sea level, 50km west Kingston. There are about two dozen people there and they all agree that they struggle to keep their plots productive despite the decreasing rainfall as a result of climate change.

Althea Spencer, treasurer of Mount Airy Farmers group, said that the weather in this area is much drier and more persistent these days. If  you dont have water, it makes no sense to plant seeds because they will just die.

However, the farmers have received some assistance in their search for water.

Just meters away from them is a two-storey shed. The roof has a drainpipe that funnels rainwater to a tall, black tank. It’s one of more than two dozen reservoirs dotted across these mountains. They are part a project that six United Nations bodies (UN) have supported to help Mount Airys farmers adapt climate change.

“This partnership among the UN and with communities is exactly the type of activity needed to address the day-to-day and practical impacts of climate change, says Vincent Sweeney, Head of the Caribbean Sub-Regional Office at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is crucial that we adapt to the new realities a warmer planet to ensure the protection of lives and livelihoods here in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

This is not a unique challenge. Droughts, floods and the spread pests are all part of climate change’s byproducts. Food and Agriculture Organization. This could prove to be disastrous in a world with nearly 700 million people going hungry each year.

Small-scale farmers who work More than 80 PercentExperts predict that many of the world’s farmers will need support to remain resilient to climate change.

A country at Risk

Jamaica’s 3 million farmers are particularly at risk. Jamaica was the first Caribbean nation to submit a stronger climate action plan in 2020. The country was at high risk from rising sea levels and drought, as well as more severe hurricanes. Its government stated.

In 2018, Mount Airy farmers joined the UN-backed Programme that helps build the resilience of communities to threats such as climate change, poverty and water insecurity. It is regarded as the first joint programme of the United Nations  in Jamaica, combining the resources of six agencies, including UNEP.

UNprogramme invested in 30 water harvesting systems in Mount Airy. The large, black tanks that appear on the hilltops as turrets catch and store rainwater, allowing farmers to evenly use it via drip irrigation. This reduces the risk of dry spells that are longer and more intense.

The new irrigation system also frees farmers from watering their crops by hand. Before we got the new system, you had to predict rainfall to put seedlings in, says Spencer, a rollerball pen tucked neatly into her hair and her feet shifting on the sunbaked earth. It feels good. It gives me more time for housework, keeping up with my farm records, as well as time to go to the market. 

Alongside the tanks sit drums which mix fertilizer with water and spread it evenly among the crops, saving the farmers valuable time. The dissolvable fertilizer is also cheaper than standard fertilizers.

The irrigation system also improves yields. Spencer now grows sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and sells them more than ever.  

Coupled with the water tanks, the programme has also prioritized education. Rural Agricultural Development Authority organizes seminars. A government agencyThe program aims to increase the knowledge and skills of farmers. 

Although it is not unusual for women to farm these lands, Spencer speaks about how the trainings have helped to empower the female members of the group by coming together. She says that the trainings and learnings are what bring us together as women. 

Mountain life

Back at the gathering of the Mount Airy farmers, the assembled say some prayers and repeat their mantra aloud two times: We are the Mount Airy Farmers Group our motto is: All grow in fear and failure bearing fruits of confidence and success.

Spencer, in her 40s, is a vocal member of the meeting and clearly well-liked. She was born in Mount Airy and has been farming these fields most of her life. She can still vividly recall her childhood on her father’s farm. He could not afford to pay anyone else and often pulled her out from school to sow and reap the crops.

That’s a common refrain among many who grew up in Mount Airy and one the new UN programme is aiming to change. 

Would you have enrolled in school if your father had a harvesting system? Spencer asks her self the same question. Yes, probably. But even then, he was always working us. So Im sure hed find something for us to do, she says laughing. 

Spencer is happy for the introduction of water tanks. However, Spencer warns that water may still run out because of current rainfall patterns. She warns that if you don’t manage your water properly, you will run out of water before you get anywhere.

Although her story is one of success, it also shows that climate change adaptation and investment will be required for many years to come. UNEP Report on 2021 Adaptation GapIt called for an urgent increase of financing for climate adaption. It was found that adaptation costs in developing nations are five to ten-fold higher than current public finance flows for adaptation, and that the gap in adaptation finance is growing.


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