Mott MacDonald has been appointed to deliver a climate vulnerability assessment for the Essex Valley Agricultural Development Project, a scheme which aims to improve the social and economic prospects of this rural region in central Jamaica. The company will then provide recommendations for the design of the infrastructure so as to cope with future climate change impacts.
The scheme, managed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) in Jamaica, aims to improve irrigation systems; enhance agricultural production and marketing facilities; and provide training in food safety standards and climate-smart agriculture practices.
Agriculture is the main source of income for most families in the area and expansion of agricultural land is currently constrained by the lack of water sources for irrigation; reduced uncertainty of water supply would allow the production of high-quality crops. Currently, water is supplied to farmers through private tanker companies, which has the disadvantages of high cost and unreliable deliveries.
As a result, the MICAF has identified a need for improvement in the irrigation system to provide greater certainty in water supply for the communities of the Essex Valley to allow them to increase productivity and expand the area of land that can be farmed. The scheme includes drilling boreholes into the Limestone Aquifer and provision of groundwater for irrigation.
Mott MacDonald will identify climate change scenarios, assess the water use and availability in the area for both now and in the future and provide recommendations for the design of the proposed scheme. Recommendations will be made to reflect extreme climate events such as higher storm intensity as well as predicted reductions in average rainfall and increase in temperature.
At present in the Essex Valley, the main crops are scallion and thyme, which are produced for the local market. With a greater certainty of water supply, a greater range of crops may be farmed over a larger area, including some which have a higher market value for onward sale.
David Ocio, Principal Hydrologist, Mott MacDonald said: “Agriculture is one of the few sectors that has demonstrated repeatedly its potential to change the economic trajectory of rural communities and put them onto a sustainable development path. It is also one that is likely to be adversely impacted by climate change, jeopardising the potential related benefits. We’re proud to be supporting this project, which is expected to significantly improve the social and economic prospects of Essex Valley and its neighbouring communities.”
A £35.5 million grant has been provided by the UK Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund, administered by the Caribbean Development Bank for the Essex Valley Agricultural Development Project.