Australian High Commissioner Ross Tysoe, who was in Jamaica during the Diplomatic week in Kingston last week, took the opportunity to visit one of the Small Grants Programme's (SGP) community-based adaptation (CBA) projects in Pleasant Valley, - an area which had long struggeled with sustainable water supply issues. The water harvesting project was funded by AusAID, one of SGP's main partners in fostering community-based climate change adaptation.
His Excellency Ross Tysoe, who was joined by Mayor Scean Barnswell, SGP National Steering Committee Deputy Chairperson Amsale Maryam and SGP Jamaica National Coordinator Hyacinth Douglas, toured the project to learn first-hand how the water supply project helped the community secure sustainable water supply and food security. Through the project, the community was able to rehabilitate the rainwater catchment area to store 100,000 gallons of water, install 4,000 meters of perimeter fencing, outfit the system with a solar pump and construct an irrigation pond which also supports the Pleasant Valley Reforestation Project. In addition, community members were trained in the productive use and care of the rainwater harvesting scheme. Together, these activities managed to improve water availability and quality for irrigation, especially during incidences of droughts and floods.
Beyond water security, the project also promoted sustainable agro-ecosystem service activities. Around 1,625 square meters of land, previously used for bauxite mining, is now being managed using sustainable agro-forestry management techniques and adaptive management tools in Sustainable Land Management (SLM), which have eased pressure on agro-forestry systems and resulted in improved agricultural production and other income generating activities.
The project has also made a tremendous impact on the quality of life for the community, especially for women who were relieved from the arduous burden of collecting water. The parish tank, which was the community's sole source of potable water, had been out of service for more than 40 years due to its close proximity to a local bauxite mine. Thinking back of the harsh life they had faced due the closure of the water tank, Councilor Melvin Jones declared that "Water..., they say is life, and during the closure of the tank, the lives of the citizens were severely disrupted. However, today we are celebrating the re-opening of the parish tank here in Pleasant Valley, - all thanks to the Australian Government." Luzan Elliot, a member of the Pleasant Valley's Community Council also added that "We used to have to carry water on our head for miles, especially during a drought, but now we have our tank again. We know the hardships when we do not have water, therefore, we will take care of our water tank."
The area around Pleasant Valley is nationally recognized as a climate hot spot where climate change-driven events such as increasing temperatures, droughts, irregular rainfall, torrential rains and flooding have adversely impacted the quality of soil and water supply. Agricultural production, which provides the main source of livelihoods for the 1,500 residents, has therefore become increasingly challenging. Pleased with the project's success in strengthening climate resilience while benefiting women, Ambassador Tysoe commented that he would like to see more of these initiatives being replicated in other areas of the region with similar problems.
The ambassador shares Jamaica's concerns regarding climate change and safe drinking water, His Excellency explained, as parts of Australia had recently faced similar climate-related challenges. "... Jamaica, is exposed to the impacts of climate change, and fresh water is one of the areas where the impacts will be severely felt. Therefore, Australia is acutely aware of the challenges Jamaica, and communities like Pleasant Valley, face as the impacts of climate change accelerate". Mayor Scean Barnswell thanked Ambassador Tysoe for Australia's support and stated Jamaica looked forward to continue its partnership with AusAID in empowering communities for climate resilience.