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The Agrarian Communities of Jamaica: What Challenges Do They Face?

Food security is a term many of us are familiar with. It's what all of us strive for, but for some, it's not always easily obtainable. Odds are, if you feel food secure, you achieved that through community programs, educational resources, your economic situation, or with the aid of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The path to food security often comes from access to pertinent information and funding, but communities without these tools generally struggle to reach adequate production, usually due to unbeknownst inefficiencies. In Jamaica, agrarian societies face particular hardships relating to food security, the Westmoreland Parshish being our primary focal point.

Jamaica is divided into three administrative counties: Cornwall, Middlesex, and Surrel. The county of Cornwall is made up of five parishes, one of them being Westmoreland. Within these parishes, 34 percent of Jamaica's farmland is located in Cornwall county, and 75 percent of all farmers in Jamaica are working on plots under two acres. These small farmers play a pivotal role in meeting the food security needs of their community, and if you've ever crafted a garden before, you know that a plot under two acres will have to be designed and ran correctly to produce abundantly. Therefore, efficiency within this space is an absolute must to provide their family and community with reliable food security.

The "food security mosaic" of Jamaica is comprised of multifactorial influences. On a macro level, one could deduce that regional food production could provide enough for its population. However, if we dive deeper and evaluate the region on a micro level, food security problems quickly arise. A myriad of factors could threaten food security, such as local politics, accessibility, tariffs, lack of ICTs, socio-cultural trends, and governance. Where we can help out as a foundation is by providing these farmers with cultivation education, ICTs that boost climate understanding and connect farmers with businesses, and instruction on how to use such technologies efficiently and accurately.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are becoming increasingly crucial to agriculture, and the adoption of ICTs will play a key role in increasing the agricultural sector's effectiveness, especially in developing countries where farmers face problems associated with insufficient information. Lack of understanding creates an environment for poor decision-making which negatively impacts food security plans. For instance, if the farmer is unaware of the demand for a particular product, they might waste their energy and resources on a crop that's not needed. If a farmer is unable to prep for an environmental hazard, they may lose their harvest to a natural disaster. They could also be inefficiently capturing and dispersing rainwater, and their garden could show a significant yield loss because of it. Locally-relevant data is critical to the financial success of the small farmer. Accessibility to these data points, like what to grow this season, what new pest pressures to expect, and the effects of climate change on crops is essential for their success.

In this series of blog posts, we will cover what climate changes are adding pressure to these farmers and what adaptations are needed; what Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could benefit these communities; how the agrarian economics of Jamaica work and the problems they present; as well as what Giving Tree Farms Foundation will be doing to help.

If you have questions or would like to get involved, you can reach out to us or sign up to be one of our valued volunteers.