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Policy networks reinforce climate-smart agriculture in Jamaica

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According to FAO, small-scale farmers in Jamaica are the most vulnerable to natural hazards.

© IFAD/ Guy Stubbs

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Amidst growing impacts of climate change, a threat to food security and livelihoods, Jamaica is using policy networks to scale-up climate-smart approaches helping farmers to be resilient and productive in extreme weather events.

Jamaica has developed a robust policy framework to tackle climate change impacts. The development of the policy framework followed a multi-stakeholder consultation involving public and private sectors, civil society and farmers, many of whom are experiencing impacts of climate change.

Una May Gordon, Principal Director, Climate Change Division, in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, says the government created the Division in 2013 as the focal point for climate action. The Division is tasked with coordinating and facilitating the implementation of the climate change agenda across government structures using policy networks.

Policy networks work

In 2015, Jamaica developed a climate change policy framework, which has enabled the country to launch a number of interventions to climate proof the many sectors of the economy. One of the interventions has been the adoption of climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

“The agriculture ministry has a climate change focal point and the focal point belongs to a network of focal points, which is an instrument of the policy and supports the work of the climate change division,” said Gordon.

“Agriculture is grounded in the rural economy and therefore affects the lives of small farmers and we have seen the impacts of climate change on the productivity of the farmers and we have targeted policies specifically to address the impacts and one of which is on climate-smart agriculture.”

Gordon said one of the structures created out of the policy framework is the climate change focal point network made up of representatives from the government, private sector and farmer organisations. The network supports implementation of the climate change policy.

“In agriculture, we have focal points to support, integrate and coordinate adaptation and mitigation efforts recognising that a number of rural women are impacted by climate change and we have sought to correct the gender disparity between male and female in agriculture through this action.”

While agriculture contributes about 7.5% to the country’s GDP, it is strategic to Jamaica’s economy for food, jobs and foreign earnings. It is also vulnerable to climate change with the frequency of natural hazards.

Climate change is a challenge to agriculture development in Jamaica because of the country’s small land mass, fragile ecosystems, high dependence on food imports and increasing impacts of frequent natural disasters. Between 1994 and 2010 major climate events led to damage and loss to the agriculture sector estimated €289 million (J$14.4 billion).

Promoting climate-smart agriculture

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, small-scale farmers in Jamaica are the most vulnerable to natural hazards and must be the main target for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

“When we are talking about CSA we need to say each sector needs to be climate-smart because climate change affects not only agriculture but all other sectors like tourism and industry,” said Gordon.

“We are looking at how we can intertwine what we are doing here in the Division with other sectors so that we get buy in from all to support the interventions and investment needed in supporting the farmers.”

Jamaica is a global tourism hotspot. Last year the country generated over $2 billion from nearly 3 million tourists. However, agriculture a key provider to the tourism industry supports a bulk of livelihoods through the growing of sugar cane, bananas, coffee, citrus, cocoa and pimento for the export market.

The island nation has created a raft of policy measures to respond to the threats of climate change. The Vision 2030 Agricultural Sector Plan proffers broad solutions to making the country’s agriculture environmentally sustainable and resilient. This includes developing renewable energy from bio-fuel resources in the sector and expanding the role of the agriculture sector in carbon trading systems and strengthening disaster response and recovery mechanisms for the agriculture sector.

Jamaica is a member of the Caribbean Climate-smart Agriculture Forum, a discussion platform formed in 2015 to help address climate change in agriculture across the region. The forum brings together agricultural sector stakeholders to discuss, learn, plan and promote policies, strategies and actions for a, sustainable agricultural system adapted to the changing climate of the Caribbean.

CTA has supported a climate-smart agriculture project in Jamaica through the Rural Agriculture Development Authority, an extension arm of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Climate Change Division.

This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.

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