With immediate effect, farmers in drought-stricken areas of South St. Elizabeth are to start benefitting from Government’s National Drought Management Plan, geared towards alleviating the impact of the drought.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott, led a top level, multi-agency tour on August 4, to get first hand information on the damage done to the areas hardest hit by the drought and bush fires, and to make an assessment of Government’s response capabilities in the local fire services and Rapid Response operations.
Mr. Arscott said the Government has allocated $5 million, through the St. Elizabeth Parish Council, to truck water to the farming communities in greatest need, and to those which are without irrigation schemes.
“The Mayor of Black River (Councillor Everton Fisher) has already started that process and we hope that we can as quickly as possible, make water available to those affected areas,” the Minister said.
The Minister was accompanied by the Members of Parliament for South Eastern and South Western St. Elizabeth, Richard Parchment and Hugh Buchanan respectively, and senior executives from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Social Development Commission (SDC), as well as officers from the local offices of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
At a post tour press briefing Minister Arscott pointed out, that the Government is taking a multi-agency approach to tackle the damage resulting from the dry weather being experienced in parishes across the island. All agencies are now on high alert, he said, and are taking elements from the National Drought Response Plan to inform the short and long term measures to be employed.
Acting Executive Director of ODPEM Richard Thompson, reported that the National Drought Response Programme was fully activated on July 31 by National Drought Committee Chairman, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Ian Hayles, opening the way for the Committee to set in motion drought counteracting measures in affected parishes islandwide.
Full activation of the National Drought Response Programme Mr Thompson said, is determined when six or more parishes are experiencing drought conditions as defined by the committee member agencies, ODPEM, RADA and the Meteorological Office.
In his update on the weather conditions and forecast, Director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica Jeffrey Spooner, said at the end of June, Jamaica had received 33 percent of its normal rainfall.
The country is experiencing not just its driest season, but in May, temperatures were the hottest since 1880, and June was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than any June since the 1800s , Mr. Spooner pointed out.
“The southern parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, and the north eastern parishes of Portland and St. Mary were the hardest hit,” he said.
Mr. Spooner said that St. Elizabeth received 33 per cent of its normal rainfall in June, and July was one of the driest months the parish had experienced in recent times, with no appreciable amount of rainfall.
Based on data from June and July, he projected that “the figures will be extreme to severe drought, especially for southern parishes and in particular St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine and St. Thomas.”
“The projection going forward, is that rainfall for August, September and October is expected to be below normal,” Mr. Spooner said.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that hot, dry and windy conditions are conducive to blazing fires, and warned farmers and householders not to burn at this time.