Farmers better equipped to deal with forest fires
More than 100 farmers in the Blue Mountain range and neighbouring communities have been trained in preventive measures and early management of forest fires.
This, through collaborative training executed under the National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA)'s Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Area Project.
The training was conducted with the support of the Forestry Department, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
In 2015, the agriculture sector in east-rural St Andrew and western St Thomas were severely shaken after uncontrolled forest fires gutted various communities.
The fires wiped out large acres of coffee, banana, pineapple and vegetables and left wide scale destruction to livestock, property, and forests.
The Jamaica Agricultural Society estimated losses at close to half a billion (Jamaica) dollars.
Now, through a series of peer group-based learning sessions called farmer field schools, 138 farmers in the St Andrew communities of Content Gap, Westphalia, and the St Thomas communities of Penlyne Castle, Windsor Forest and Windsor Castle are now better equipped to prevent and manage the flames.
Nelsa English-Johnson, Yallahs-Hope Watershed Project manager noted that while it will be difficult to persuade farmers to stop 'slash and burn' as a method to prepare farmlands for planting, she is hopeful that many have been open to learning the climate-smart alternatives.
"With many still reeling from the effects of the 2015 blaze, we hope it will be the catalyst that brings a change in their behaviour, to use the material cleared for composting and mulching, as viable alternatives to burning," she said.