St Bess set to bloom - Massive water project to come on stream

January 16, 2019
The hotel sector is being targeted for the sale of agricultural produce from the breadbasket parish of St Elizabeth.
Franklyn Witter, member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth.
Nalford Holness, a scallion farmer in Comma Pen St. Elizabeth, surveys his field.
A new day is on the horizon for farmers in St Elizabeth who often suffer as a result of drought conditions.

Farmers in southern St Elizabeth are being told to get ready to increase production as they are about to see one of the largest investments in irrigation infrastructure on the island.

Dubbed the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project, the scheme is expected to positively impact the livelihoods of more than 700 farmers on 718 hectares of land through the provision of irrigation water and improved access to local and global agricultural markets.

"South St Elizabeth is really a strong farming area," said Frank Witter, the member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth. He said that with the exception of bauxite, agriculture is the greatest economic driver in that section of the parish.

"We have faced the challenge over the years, in relation to water to support farming activities. We have been advocating for many years for irrigation water in the communities, we are about to see the realisation of that. It is going to go a far way in increasing productivity and also increasing the standard of living of the people in those areas," Witter said.

The project, which is funded by the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF), through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), will be launched at Lititz Primary School today.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw are expected to be in attendance.

Communities such as Comma Pen, Lititz, Savanna, New Forrest, and Junction are set to benefit when the water starts flowing. Witter said that the farmers will be organised to ensure that everyone does not plant the same crop at the same time.

"We are going to be putting in the proper structures in terms of organising the farmers to ensure that they cultivate produce that are marketable," said Witter.

He said that the hotel sector is being targeted for the sale of produce.

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