February 2015 saw more than 230 coffee farmers attend a graduation ceremony in Clarendon, Jamaica marking completion of their participation in a ‘climate smart’ farmer field school programme. The event was a milestone for 11 farmer groups from the southern and central parishes of Jamaica. Graduation increased the total number of climate smart graduates to in excess of 400.
The climate smart farmers will be an asset in the country’s fight against climate change. In the period 1994-2010, Jamaica lost more than J$14 billion (approximately US$120 million) due to the impact of climate change events on the island.
The climate smart agriculture farmer field school programme is part of the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH) project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The aim of the project is to build the country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters and contribute positively to sustainable development of the agriculture sector. The graduating farmers received field-based training on practical ways to integrate site-appropriate best management techniques on their coffee, cocoa, citrus, onion, and pepper farms. These climate-smart practices protect the land while maintaining its viability and productivity. Climate-smart farming techniques such agroforestry, rainwater harvesting, water use efficiency, and agro-meteorology were also introduced in the course.
The Ja REEACH project, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, is a three-year initiative focused on protecting rural lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems in targeted Jamaican communities that are affected by climate change. In addition to building the capacity of partners and beneficiaries to respond to climate change, the programme also supports the development of a climate change action plan and strategy for the agricultural sector and works with the Jamaican Meteorological Service to improve the dissemination of weather information and forecasts.