Letters to the Editor

Good going with solar-powered irrigation

Monday, November 13, 2017

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Dear Editor,

I give heart-stirring and rousing applause to the Government of Jamaica for signing a memorandum of understanding to commence construction and installation of Jamaica's first solar-powered irrigation system. It warms my heart even more because this is being done in the areas in which sugar cane is cultivated — a crop suffering from dwindling production figures in the past five years.

It is well known that to grow many crops on the plains of Clarendon and St Catherine there will need to be a reliance on irrigation because the rainfall received by these parishes is far less compared to others.

While I encourage the move by the Government, I make the necessary and critical suggestion that such an initiative should not be limited to Clarendon, but expanded to the other parishes in Jamaica, particularly the sugar cane-growing areas of the country.

It was the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries Karl Samuda who, at the recent annual Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists conference in Ocho Rios, St Ann, made an alluring appeal to the European Union representatives to Jamaica for funding to tackle the issue of climate change. This appeal was made because of the change in weather patterns observed in recent years.

Gone are the days when rain-fed areas of the sugar industry could survive without the need for irrigation. The amount of rainfall being received in the rain-fed areas of the sugar industry, such as the parishes of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland, have totalled less than 1,500 mm per annum, which used to be the average for these areas. Less than 1,500 mm of rainfall annually is not considered substantial to cultivate sugar cane. It is on this notion that I make a plea to the Government to give key consideration to the possibility of adapting this solar-powered technology irrigation beyond the parish of Clarendon, given the effects now being experienced as a result of climate change.

We have to plan for the future, and the reality is that, as human beings, food consumption will always be a necessity of life. To enable food consumption, there has to be food production. With increased population the protection of our natural resources, as it relates to our soil and water, will need to be a priority. The applications of innovative technology to these natural resources will play a crucial role in agricultural production and sustainability.

Romaine Gordon

Agronomist

romaine.gordon@ufl.edu

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