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This article was first published in the JIS (Jamaican Information Service) by Twila Wheelan on April 18, 2023.
Fifteen farmers and four government officers have benefited from training in sustainable hydroponics production systems, under the ‘Addressing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus’ (WEF) Project. This capacity building activity was possible through a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the Government of Mexico and the Government of Jamaica. The Water-Energy-Food nexus project is part of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO ‘Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean’ or Resilient Caribbean Initiative.
The project, which is funded by the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), aims to empower farmers with the tools and expertise to become more climate resilient. Hence, the training has equipped farmers with new skills in hydroponics to help improve their yield.
Following their participation in the programme, some farmers received solar-powered irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting and storage facilities, for sustainable open-field production.
Hydroponic Innovative technology
The main features of the hydroponics innovation include a recirculating system, which enables the controlled distribution of nutrient solution via a solar-powered pump. The nutrient solution is transported throughout the system to the plant’s roots, then the excess nutrient is again collected in a reservoir and recirculated through the system. This process reduces the amount of water and nutrients used. It also lessens the economic and environmental impacts associated with nutrient leaching that can occur in unsustainable open field production.
Institutional representatives support the initiative
The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., welcomed the initiative by noting that sustainable solutions are critical to the development of the sector. “Through our Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) and other agencies, we are putting in place sustainable hydroponics solutions that will address some of the challenges that we see in terms of floods and droughts,” he said. “We need to have that mix between innovation and traditional and the types of techniques that will allow for us to increase production, increase productivity and put in place operations to withstand what we know is coming in terms of the hurricanes, droughts and floods,” the Minister added.
Mr. Charles Jr. also encouraged the use of hydroponics for the average Jamaican who may not have a backyard garden: “If you are in an urban space, we encourage you to establish a small hydroponic system, vertical farming inside of your home. We will guide you and give you the support to do so. You can reach out to the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and they will certainly be excited to support you in terms of the best practices and the guidelines on how best for you to become involved in growing smart and eating smart wherever you are,” he stated.
FAO National Project Coordinator for Jamaica, Princess Lee, said the project is expected to increase the productivity of farmers, while moving away from the use of fossil fuels, by using solar equipment. “We are also training farmers in nutrition management. We are teaching them how to analyse the crop, assess the needs of the crop at different stages, feed the crop accordingly without wasting fertilisers and to get the best results as well,” Ms.Lee stated
Meanwhile, the onion farmer from Amity Hall in Spanish Town St. Catherine, Dwayne Howell, said that the introduction to sustainable hydroponics production changed his perspective as to how to approach growing crops on his farm.
- Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme // Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Training Material.
- WEF Nexus Book // Let's unravel this Knot! Water-energy-food guide for kids.
- Nexus Regional Dialogues LAC // IIGE and GIZ developed the second edition of the Nexus Dialogue Water, Energy and Food in Ecuador.
- Nexus Regional Dialogue Central Asia // Nexus approach is widely promoted in Turkmenistan.