Speeches Shim

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Students of the New Roads Primary School perform at the handover ceremony of the rehabilitated water catchment tank.
KWeller USAID/Jamaica

Sept. 2014—Jamaica has always been vulnerable to extreme weather such as drought and hurricanes, but many people do not make a direct link with climate change. Over the past decade, Jamaica experienced nine natural disasters causing damages estimated at $1.4 billion.

As a small island developing state, Jamaica’s major economic sectors, including agriculture, tourism and mining, are vulnerable to these extreme weather patterns. The country cannot escape or prevent these natural events from happening, but it can take the necessary measures to mitigate huge setbacks brought on by the negative impacts of climate change.

Across Jamaica, fewer than half of rural communities have reliable access to potable water. Many people rely on traditional methods such as rainwater harvesting, but dependence on rainfed systems make them extremely vulnerable to long periods of drought. The ability to store large amounts of water is crucial as rainfall patterns fluctuate with the changing climate.

The drought-stricken community of New Roads had suffered from a lack of water for years. A leaky catchment tank was the only source of potable water for more than 2,000 people in the area, but there was no money to repair it. People traveled long distances to find, and pay for, other water sources. Children were late for school as a result of not being able to take a proper bath. Farmers lost their crops and their incomes.

In 2012, New Roads received a USAID grant to rehabilitate a defective community water tank. USAID’s approach: to combine awareness-raising activities with tangible changes at the community level. An island campaign, “Climate Changes, and I Must Adapt to It,” continues to reach thousands of Jamaicans. The campaign educates farmers and helps them modify their practices so they can better manage soil, reduce waste and emissions, and use the island’s scarce water resources more efficiently.

Over the past two years, USAID has worked with the Jamaican Government to tackle the challenges of climate change. A climate change ministry has been created and a climate change policy framework is currently in development. The plan will guide action for addressing the impacts of climate change across all sectors and in keeping with Jamaica’s Vision 2030 National Development Plan.

“We now have water for our domestic use and … our crops," said Danny Samuels, a New Roads farmer who grows a wide variety of crops for sale.

Karyll Aitcheson, program manager for USAID’s Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change project, which provided the grant to repair the tank, agreed. “Working with communities such as New Roads takes us one step further to address issues that are really being affected by climate change,” she said.

Tangible changes like rehabilitating the water tank help community members feel more secure and demonstrate resilience to climate change.

A teacher from the New Roads All Age School, Sherine Richards-Griffiths, said repairing the water source was a huge accomplishment for her community: “It is a wonderful feeling. This is a big step, and I applaud the government. It will also be beneficial for the school as well.”

About the Author

Kimberley Weller is the Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID’s Mission in Jamaica.

Last updated: June 21, 2022

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