Farmers encouraged to use NIC services

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Farmers in the field (photo:courtesy of Seun Adeniyi)

The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is urging farmers to access their irrigation services for their crops. The call comes in light of the recent drought conditions caused by below-normal rainfall, which has left many farmers across the island vulnerable. Many farmers are still dependent on rainfall to sustain their operations, but irrigated water can provide a consistent supply. Public Relations Specialist at the NIC, Christeen Forbes, said that efficient food production requires water, and sufficient water supplies improve yields. “It is important for our farmers to have irrigation because it provides a sense of security. Climate change is upon us, and we are having drier periods”. The main reason for irrigation is to counter that lack of access to water,” she said. The NIC’s operations span three regions, seven irrigation districts, 14 irrigation schemes and one drainage area.

Services are provided primarily to agricultural and some industrial users in the eastern, central and western regions of Jamaica. Ms. Forbes said irrigation provides farmers with better control of how often their crops get water. “Once the water is available, you, the farmer, have the option to turn on or off the water and decide when you want to water your crops and how much to irrigate. So, we want to encourage our farmers to be very efficient in the use and management of their water,” she added.

In the meantime, the NIC is encouraging farmers to practise water conservation to ensure that they are not overwatering their crops. Ms. Forbes said it is important that farmers follow best practices as to how and when to irrigate. “What we find is that our farmers are overirrigating. They are irrigating for very long hours. We at the NIC are, therefore, encouraging them to get the information as to how best to irrigate a particular crop,” she noted. “For example, one crop might require an hour for the day to be irrigated, another might require 20 minutes. So, farmers need to get that information to ensure they are being efficient in how they are managing their farms to get maximum output,” Ms. Forbes said.

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