Work on the Essex Valley Irrigation Infrastructure Development Programme is moving at an accelerated pace, according to Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Hon. Floyd Green.
The programme aims to assist in Jamaica’s achievement of food security and modernising the agricultural sector by increasing the area in St. Elizabeth under formal irrigation by 50 per cent and the yield of crops in Essex Valley to a minimum 90 per cent of their potential.
This is being done through the construction of wells and development of associated agricultural infrastructure in the arable Essex Valley region.
Mr. Green said the project, which is being implemented by the Agriculture Ministry, will bring 800 hectares of land under irrigation.
“Essex Valley is doing well. We have completed 93 per cent of our pipe-laying exercise [and] we have already tested 34 per cent of those pipes,” he informed.
The Minister was addressing the commissioning ceremony for the National Irrigation Commission Limited (NIC) Operations Centre and Rio Cobre Office in St. Catherine, on Wednesday (September 13).
Activities scheduled under the Essex Valley project for 2023/24 include the installation of irrigation pipes, fittings, and meters; the supply and installation of pumps and equipment, and a renewable energy plant to power the irrigation system; and the development of operational plans for areas covered by the Essex Valley and Southern Plains Agricultural Development projects.
“Additionally, we have continued to train our farmers. Last quarter alone, we trained 126 farmers in Essex Valley and 56 farmers in Amity Hall. So, the work is there ready to be done as soon as we are done with these projects,” Mr. Green advised.
The Minister further informed that implementation of the project’s renewable energy component is ahead of schedule and is now 45 per cent complete.
He advised that the Pedro Plains Irrigation system will cover 4,000 hectares of land.
“We are already in the process of doing our cadastral mapping. In fact, we have done all our community consultations around our cadastral ‘mapping. Our surveyors are already out in the field who are going to bring titles to over 1,000 people as part of the Pedro Plains Irrigation project. [The] Government has already ascribed in this budget $700 million for that process,” the Minister said.