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How Climate Change is Affecting Jamaican Agriculture

As an island in the Caribbean, it may be surprising to discover that Jamaica is facing a drought. Climate change is creating difficult obstacles for farmers on the island, and without the information and communication technologies (ICTs) we're used to here in the States, these cultivators face the challenges blindly. Rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, increased temperatures, and an abundance of flooding are all examples of what these island communities are tackling, but because of their dependence on agriculture, the impact of climate change is heightened.

One significant impact is the uneven water distribution in Jamaica. Where one parish suffers from severe water shortages, another experiences water in extreme abundance. The parishes with the largest proportion of land dedicated to agriculture are Claredon, St. Catherine, St. Ann, and Westmoreland, three of which saw drastically less rainfall last year than they were accustomed to. In 2019, the Westmoreland Parish saw just under 60 percent of their average rainfall, whereas Saint James saw over 40% more rainfall than average. Because of these water availability issues, the National Water Commission has begun regulating water access to customers, only sending water through their pipes during specific hours of the day and only on particular days of the week. Sometimes, these farmers won't see water even in their allotted time period, a factor that adds stress to food and water security. These individuals currently counteract this by reusing and recycling their water, which in turn, decreases the quality of the water they are able to use.

If ICTs were introduced, farmers could better prepare for the dry seasons and extreme temperatures as well as prepare for the possibility of flooding during extreme weather. In a country where nearly a fifth of the workforce lies in the agriculture sector, the introduction of these technologies could improve their way of life tremendously. With access to localized weather forecasting systems, farmers could set up water catchment systems before heavy rains to brace themselves for a long stretch of dry weather. It also allows ample time for flood defense, helping to prevent the erosion of their farmlands.

Farmers could additionally use such technologies to collaborate with their communities and plant crops accordingly. If farmers can work together when planning their crops, one neighbor could focus on grains while another plants squash and beans. Another farmer raises livestock, like chickens and goats, and together they produce more efficiency as a whole. These technologies can encourage collaboration regarding distribution or trade, and allow communities to inform the public of upcoming farmers markets and education events. It can also provide a basis for discussing new pest pressures and encouraging a culture of idea sharing, a powerful tool that leads to collective advancement in localized farming methods.

With rising sea levels threatening Jamaica's ports and raising temperatures bleaching the coral reefs, Jamaica needs access to these technologies so they can begin adapting to climate change effectively. Introducing information and communication technologies provides a priceless tool that ables these communities to adapt, improve, and excel. In a world where climate change doesn't show signs of stopping, these technologies are increasingly becoming more and more crucial.