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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Making Smart Agriculture Work For Jamaica

At the core of most sustainable development discussion is the subject of climate change, and this was no exception at the British Caribbean Geography Conference (BCGC). The conference which took place the week of June 22, 2014, was held at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus and marked the event’s 6th anniversary. Attendees spanned diverse areas of research, but all united to share their work on the theme, The Caribbean Region: Adaptation and Resilience to Global Change.

Notwithstanding The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)’s predominant focus on Latin America, Asia and Africa, the organization was amongst the invitees who participated in the week long event. BCGC not only allowed CIAT to showcase its previous work on Jamaica, but also created a platform to propel the organization’s interest in adding greater value to their preliminary case study, Impact of Climate Change on Jamaican Hotel Industry Supply Chains and On Farmer’s Livelihoods.

Bananas covered with a blue plastic bag to speed the ripening process and prevent damage from leaves. Twyman’s Old Tavern Blue Mountain Coffee Estate

CIAT’s Work in Jamaica

A recent study (2011) concluded by CIAT reaffirmed what many researchers have been advancing for years, Jamaica along with other Caribbean Small Island States (SIDs), is amongst the first and most severely affected by climate change. The magnitude of this impact on Jamaica is not only defined by  its exposure to climate change risks, but also the amalgamation of economic resource constraints and the vulnerability of  its geographical location that is, small size, narrow resources and concentration of resources along the coast.

Agriculture is highly dependent on climatic conditions. And despite its decline in productivity over the years, the sector remains a significant source of livelihood and national income for Jamaica. Given the link between income and food security, it was important for CIAT to assess climate change impact on agriculture. To do this, changes in the climate were simulated using Global Circulation Model (GCM) data, downloaded and downscaled from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report to determine short, medium and long term weather projections.

Findings revealed that monthly and yearly rainfall will decrease in Jamaica, and monthly and yearly minimum and maximum temperatures will increase by 2030 and will continue to increase progressively by 2050. Further results from the Ecocrop model showed that distribution of precipitation will change for some crops quite seriously in 2030, and more so by 2050. In the case of banana, sweet potato and cucumber, climate suitability is projected to remain very good and in some cases increase. However, suitability will decline for cabbage, ginger and carrot.

But what does this mean for Jamaica moving forward?

Jamaican small farmers have low human, social and financial capital which may compromise their adaptive capacity. For these farmers, the effects of climate change maybe exacerbated because they may not be able to moderate potential damages caused by climate change and climate variation or to capitalize on the opportunities presented by such events. Consequently, under current and future climate risks, Jamaican small farmers are likely to experience great losses in yield. Strategy to prepare small farmers for climate change will therefore need to consider the pronounced heterogeneity of production, and differences in direct impacts, as well as the low awareness of the problem at hand. To achieve this, CIAT proposes smart agriculture as Jamaica’s strategy for moving forward.

Making climate change work for Jamaican farmers

One of the recurring topics at BCGC was to focus on the opportunities presented by climate change and climate variability. CIAT’s preliminary research in Jamaica revealed that there are many opportunities worth pursuing by way of smart agriculture. Based on the Ecocrop model used, findings revealed that of the 14 crops studied, suitability spatially varies under current and projected climate. This case study creates the ideal premise to use climate smart agriculture (CSA) to increase resilience and to reduce risks associated with climate change and variability in vulnerable areas, by conducting spatially explicit monitoring and modelling of land health and agronomic suitability, and assessing modeled agronomic and environmental benefits for the CSA practices at the local level.

Benefits of CSA

CSA contributes to the achievement of sustainable development goals by integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development economic, social and environment to address food security and climate challenges. CSA is therefore an ideal way to not only address both these issues simultaneously, but to also guide the needed changes within the agricultural systems.

CSA is comprised of three main pillars:

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change and
  • Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions

Essential to the achievement of these goals are:

  • Smart adaptive practices/measures
  • Education, training, capacity building, information sharing,  research
  • Marketing, to improve efficiency and resilience of food systems at every scale (farmers, agro-industry, retailers, consumers and public authorities)
  • Legislation & government policies, i.e. integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation into relevant national policies and plans, enhance institutional capacity and facilitate awareness building amongst Jamaica’s population to better adapt to climate change
  •  Infrastructure development, organization, sustainable implementation

Jamaica is in unique position to achieve CSA. CIAT therefore welcomes the opportunity to improve smallholder farmers’ adaptive capacity and to build resilient livelihoods through smart agriculture.



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