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Environments contaminated with toxic substances pose a risk to the health of communities nearby

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It is 9 am, and Mount Airy, central Jamaica’s rural district, is already scorching. As cars drive along unpaved roads in the region, chocolate-brown dust cloud clouds appear behind their back wheels. 

It is here that the Mount Airy Farmers Group meet every morning, located 50km west from Kingston at 500 meters above sealevel. 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 is the treasurer for Mount Airy Farmers, which is located in Northern Clarendon. She says that the weather here is a lot drier 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.

A two-storey shed, with a drainpipe roof, is located just meters from the area where they are gathered. It funnels rainwater into an enormous, 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.

The region is not the only one facing this challenge. The result of climate change is threatening agricultural production all over the world. 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 is an island nation with 3 million inhabitants. This makes it particularly vulnerable for farmers. Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to submit a more severe climate action plan to UN in 2020. It was concerned about rising sea levels, drought, and more severe hurricanes. Its government stated.

In 2018, Mount Airy farmers joined the UN-backed Programm 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.

The UNprogramme has invested in 30 new water harvesting system in Mount Airy. The large, black tanks are visible on the hilltops and look like turrets. They store rainfall and allow farmers to use it evenly through 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’s quite 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 and sells sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes more than ever before.  

Coupled with the water tanks, the programme has also prioritized education. Rural Agricultural Development Authority organizes seminars. A government agencyThis program aims at increasing 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 said that the trainings and the learnings have helped to bond the women together. 

Mountain life

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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, who is in her 40s and is very well-liked, is a vocal participant at this meeting. 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 water tanks to be introduced. She says that water can sometimes run out due to 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 Gapurged for urgent funding for climate adaptation. It found that adaptation costs are five to tenfold higher in developing countries than current public flows of adaptation finance flows. The gap in financing for climate adaptation is increasing.

UNEP

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