NIC bemoans poor take-up of irrigation offerings

Director of Technical Services at the National Irrigation Commission Rohan Stewart speaks about the ways it provides water to its many customers. The model was part of its offering at the recent Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show.

The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is on a drive to provide practical, affordable irrigation options for farmers all across Jamaica, with the aim of boosting food security. This, in light of the ongoing disruptions in the global supply chain as the war between Ukraine and Russia continues.

Standing next to a model showing the different ways in which the NIC utilises water and the options available to its customers, at the recent Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, Director of Technical Services Rohan Stewart spoke about the greater urgency for irrigation now, in facilitating the different areas of agricultural development. The model showed water coming from the mountainous areas of the island and heading to the sea, highlighting the various ways it is diverted along the way for agricultural production.

Patrons learnt that the NIC is no longer a distant and isolated entity but is now integrated into communities and delivering water to its many customers, including farmers engaged in sugar cane cultivation, vegetable crops, fish farming and orchard crops, among other areas. This is besides the two mega projects in which it is involved – the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project in St Elizabeth and the Southern Plains Agricultural Development Project.

“We continue to work on those but outside of that we are promoting areas within the traditional sugar cane areas where cane is not being grown on such a large scale. So we are asking people to take up those opportunities and we have been getting increased requests but not to the extent that we would want to see. St Catherine, Clarendon, those areas are former big sugar cane areas that lost out significantly, and where the infrastructure permits it we want to see people utilising those lands. We call that the low-hanging fruit because where the water is, they can utilise it.

“Water canals are there, some of the pipelines are there, we would want to see a greater take-up but I have not seen where there is that type of urgency that we would have thought,” he told The Gleaner. “It is happening but not to the extent that we would have hoped or the urgency the thing requires.”

The NIC also has a pressurised system where water is taken from wells and supplied to different customers, including some who use sprinkler systems. The model being promoted by the NIC uses a combination of options, such as providing water for those who use black tanks for storage from which the water is then used for drip irrigation.

Another area in which the NIC is making progress is in the use of solar energy to power some of its irrigation plants with its total capacity in that area at 570 kilowatts. This represents four per cent of its total energy usage.