Country specific interventions are needed within the framework of coherent national programmes and policies to advance responses to climate change impacts and vulnerabilities. Within this context, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under the cooperative framework between FAO and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has conducted a study on “climate change and agriculture in Jamaica.” The study identified the potential impacts, considered appropriate interventions and analyzed if and where they should be implemented. The scope of the study focused on broader policy directions and investment priorities consistent with the “Jamaica’s Vision 2030”  and National Development Plan.
Jamaica’s agriculture is already experiencing the impacts of climate variability
Although agriculture’s contribution to Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP) has steadily declined over the past two decades – and in 2009 stood at 5.2 percent – this sector absorbs 20 percent of the country’s employed labour force. Small-scale farmers are the most vulnerable to changes in climate variability that is already taking place. For example, mean temperature in Jamaica has increased by around 0.6°C since 1960, with an average rate of 0.14 °C per decade. The mean precipitation over Jamaica has decreased in June – August (JJA) and September – November (SON) by 6.2 and 4.5 mm per month per decade respectively, although these trends are not statistically significant. The damage and loss to the agriculture sector due to major climate events between 1994 and 2010 amounted to about J$14.4 billion. On average, the impact of major climate extremes on agriculture accounts for nearly 20 percent of the total impact on the country.
Considering the future, the mean annual temperature is projected to increase between 0.47°C and 1.17 °C by 2030, and between 0.6 °C and 2.3 °C by the 2060s. The projections of mean annual rainfall from different models indicate decreasing rainfall for Jamaica. A study by CIAT-OXFAM (2011)  predicted that the suitability of crops such as cabbage, carrot, ginger, sweet potato and tomato is expected to decline between 25 percent and 47 percent by 2050. The Water Resources Authority of Jamaica reported that water demand for agriculture will increase by 18 percent in 2030. As the agriculture sector is the major user of freshwater resources (75 percent), it is expected to be affected severely.
Priority adaptation actions for the agriculture sector of Jamaica
There are a number of coping strategies currently employed by farmers and fishermen to respond to climate variability. However, these practices are not sufficient to counter the increasing climate risks. Interventions of many improved adaptation are needed to cope with risks of drought (e.g. growing alternate crops, rainwater harvesting, rehabilitation of existing water storage structures, conjunctive use of surface and ground water, mulching for water conservation, reduced tillage practices, drip irrigation); of floods (e.g. construction of raised beds, network drains, check dams); of landslides (e.g. contour planting of crops, hedgerow alley cropping); and of strong winds associated with hurricanes (planting low profile crops, periodical pruning of trees, triangular bracing mechanism for bananas).
The consultations with government agencies highlight the potential for improvement of investment in agriculture sector. For example, institutional strengthening within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOAF) through the development of a comprehensive database management system on livelihoods, production, marketing and climate impacts could help share and increase access to data island-wide for risk reduction and adaptation planning. A dedicated unit within MOAF, which works on issues related to climate change and disaster risk management could add value to overall capacity development, coordination and collaboration mechanisms at the national level.
Investments in agriculture infrastructure with multiple rural development objectives would help reduce the impacts of climate risks. Protecting the livelihoods exposed to climate-related extreme events might also sustain the agriculture sector. Adaptation measures which are proposed include up-scaling community-based adaptation initiatives in agriculture; strengthening agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture support services; and advancing research on crop improvement, management technologies and diversified livelihood strategies, especially in most vulnerable areas.