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FactChecking, Lunacy and the White House: Am I Dreaming?

January 28, 2017
You know, these days I fact check anything that comes from the White House- even a photo.
Before this past January 20, 2017, I just accepted that information from the Office of POTUS, was by and large the truth- expected that, actually. I’m one of those who believe that any information that is released- more so from the leader of the ‘Free World –  should be accurate, factual and above the fray (of course I expect omissions and spins- I’m a journalist afterall).fact_check_2

But it seems I’ve been trapped in a nightmare and its only been a week- maybe two. Now I have to check the foreign news and several local US news sources to verify that the White House information is correct, and that my friends is a sad state of affairs. No matter how much of a supporter you are, you’d be lying if you said you’re not concerned- unless you don’t care, or you don’t mind being lied to.

These days I expect the POTUS (not Russia, not Erdoğan or even Duturte) to do and say the most outrageous, shocking, awful (not to mention ignorant) things. Frankly, I believe that pretty soon, a Tweet from the Tweeter-In-Chief will start a war, or at least get somebody killed.

Lesson From China’s Sparrow Eradication Experiment
I am convinced there is a deranged man on the loose in the White House, so with the expected changes to the EPA, an article I recently read about Chairman Mao’s decree in 1958 (which called for the death of all sparrows) came to mind The story resonates, because it illustrates how destructive a leader that creates his own facts can be (and I think seven (7) bankruptcies  is an indicator).

Mao thought sparrows ate too much grain, and was therefore hampering China’s development, so he ordered them killed. The sparrow eradication programme caused an environmental catastrophe, because (and as we all now know) every living thing as a role in this circle of life. In the three years following the decree, 45 million people died in a famine caused by out-of-control pests. You see, sparrows feed on insect pests and were critical to their control.  Read the story here

Catastrophes happen when ‘ignorant’ leaders plough ahead with their plans above all else, and history is ‘paved’ with ‘gems’ like these, -teaching moments. In fact, several unique and vulnerable species are about to meet their demise with this border wall obsession and actions POTUS promised to take so that farmers can get the water they need, and in the process destroy California’s aquifers and surface water systems. However, it is the price one pays when an illiterate (his reading and speech say so much), insufferable gas bag with a ‘god’ complex is given too much power.

Beware, The Bully Re-Awakens
Far worse, I see that old bully  re-emerging in the Americas, as an antagonist, lyingTrump and the GOP try to “Make America Great Again”. What’s even more scary? Small, Latin and South American countries acquiescing before the fight has even begun- my utmost respect to Mexico and its president Enrique Peña Nieto who had signalled their intention to back out of the January 31 meeting a day prior to the dim-wit’s tweet.  The liar implied, via Twitter ( the new bully pulpit) that he initiated the cancellation, now he says it is mutual (ofcourse I digress).gty_trump_nieto_as_160831_31x13_1600

Threats are already in the air: “Mexico is going to pay for the wall”; If you build abroad and sell in the US we will impose tariffs; “we’re taking names”, said Nikki Haley a few days ago. For small nations, targeting niche markets where people don’t mind the higher prices; selling directly to the small man and looking to nations where there is likely to be a fair price could be the advantages to break the bully.

So folks, it’s time for southern lands to look South! Looking north is no longer an option- do anything, so something, just down roll over.The boats that take food from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to their Caribbean neighbours seem to be doing well, in other words  tighten your belts and fight the bully. I remain steadfast in my belief, that anti-China sentiments in the Bush years led to the crash of the US economy and the mortgage melt-down- looking inward won’t stop it happening again. This time, be prepared.

Impose your own tariffs and rebuild your industries, form your own trading groups; stand up and fight back. Immediately after Trump announces tariffs, impose your own. Have you forgotten that it was the US who came to you with a plan, because they needed to grow their economy? Your replacement for NAFTA should already be in place. Do you know how many cars are imported to the Caribbean, Central and South America from the European Union, Japan, India and China each year? Have you seen the potential for the supply of food, other goods to go East?

Seek Alternative Markets, Trading Partners
People, there are 196 countries in the world (depending on who you ask), areas that are and continue to grow; areas that lack investments but which are brimming to overflowing with human resources and potential. Africans are leaving their countries in droves due a lack of investment, yet the educated populations on the content are growing super fast. It is time to strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes.

China's Freight Train leaves for London

China’s Freight Train leaves for London

Lets face it, at this juncture, the US needs Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America perhaps more than they need the United States. As the world grows smaller, it becomes easier for small producers to find markets elsewhere and perhaps better prices too. Did you see that freight train from China arriving in London last week? Large, medium and small companies can make more by investing in Central and South America, China or India that they can in the US where production prices are higher and sales volume risk stagnation. Imagine the potential for growth in populations of 1.4 billion people that is China, 1.2 billion in India, compared to 318 million in the US.

US Remains The Biggest Beneficiary of Free Trade Agreements
Mexico and other trading partners have been made the scapegoat by a blowhard who has no understanding of the manufacturing trade, he is after all a vendor and one that at best, cheats his suppliers.

After all that is being said, everybody (besides POTUS that is) knows that the North American Free Trade  Agreement’s (NAFTA) biggest beneficiary is the US, where authorities continue to impose rules that prevent smaller nations from entering their protected markets. But suddenly, because Mexico has managed to get some benefit from which should be a reciprocal agreement, they are out of style. I’m sure many African and Caribbean nations haven’t forgotten that its was the US that used the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to destroy the commodity trades with their former colonial rulers in the EU. They destroyed livelihoods and lives and made nations poorer.cargo2

The peoples of the Caribbean, Latin and South America can and must work together to build strong relationships that will rival any region, we can feed ourselves, educate our people and be independent of the bully-ism that is once again coming from America.

When all is said and done, I am still scratching my head that this is the man that Christians in America voted into the White House. They rebuke people for judging the morally deficient serial liar, while they sit in judgement and cast to hell those who oppose their points of view.

Zadie is a journalist and Communications Specialist.

Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

The following was published by IPS on Dec 10, 2015

by Zadie Neufville

Jimmi Jones and wife Sandra Lee’s fish farm in Belize City is unique. His fish tanks supply the water and nutrients  his vegetable garden needs and the plants filter the water that is recycled back to the tanks.

Jones has been showing off the “JimSan Aquaponics” style of organic farming in meetings across the Caribbean to support efforts by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in promoting aquaculture as a food security option in combatting global climate change.

As global warming increases sea temperatures, wild catch fishery could decline by as much as 50 per cent, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned. Warming seas are expected to devastate regional fisheries by shifting the travel routes of pelagic fish and the distribution of high-value species while causing die offs of many other popular marine species.

A Sept 2015 study from the University of British Columbia noted that warmer seas could alter the distribution of many marine species and worsen the effects of pollution, over-fishing and degraded habitats, resulting in economic fallouts worldwide.

To ensure food security, the CRFM, the regional body responsible for the responsible use of regional resources, is promoting aquaculture as part of a range of initiatives to build climate-resilient fisheries. A five-year plan has been drafted by the Secretariat and a working group established to guide the process.

The CRFM strategy is among activities the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) proposed to lessen the impacts of climate change on small-scale producers.

Jones’ aquaponics operation illustrates how aquaculture can help farmers, particularly small subsistence fish and food farmers, to boost their family income while providing adequate food and protein for the table.

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

With modifications, this method of aquaculture can be applied on large or small operations; it reduces water use by 90 per cent while allowing farmers to produce up to 10 times more vegetables than terrestrial plots within the same footprint, while eliminating the need for pesticides and other chemicals. The addition of renewable energy systems could further reduce production costs.

“In essence you feed the fish, they produce waste, the waste goes through a bacterial process that breaks it down from ammonia to nitrate, which is basically plant food, along with other processes that happen. You’re growing fish and vegetables using the same infrastructure; the water goes through a filtration system and you grow the plants without using soil,” Jones explained.

Despite what seems to be an easy enough undertaking, aquaculture has been on the decline in the Caribbean. In 2012, production plummeted from between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes to 500 tonnes when the Jamaican fish-farming industry collapsed under pressure from cheap imports.

Aquaculture production in Jamaica, at one time the largest producer in the region, fell from around 11,000 tonnes in 2010, to just over 7,700 in 2011, falling even further in recent years.

Jamaican fish farmer Vincent Wright pointed to government policies that have made it difficult for them to compete. “The global economic downturn, high cost of energy, theft and a lack of adequate and suitable water supplies have made things even harder,” he said.

Executive Director of CRFM Milton Haughton has challenged regional governments to implement systems and regulations that will help investors to “overcome the impediments” aquaculture farmers face.

“We do need to provide the necessary legislative and regulatory framework, the policy support and the incentives to our fish farmers and private sector investors, so that they can grow the sector and increase production, not only for local consumption but also for exports,” he said.

In the last year or so, the CTA and the CRFM partnered to review the development aquaculture in region and in bid to identify the challenges, find solutions and guide the re-development of the industry, Haughton said. Among the improvements, policies regarding the development and distribution of land and water, as well as the production of brood stock and food.

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Wright, who is also a scientist, said most Jamaican fish farms are built on marginal lands that are prone to flooding and with limited access to water. Given the locations and the existing conditions of local farms, climate changes will likely cause increased flooding, and disease, while reducing the availability of water for farms during periods of drought, he said.

The admission of Martinique and Guadeloupe to the CRFM family in 2014 is making up for the lack of research in the industry through Martinique-based French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) , an organisation with decades of research and development experience in tropical fish culture, nutrition, disease and mortality in farmed species.

The Centre also draws on the expertise of the national research capabilities of the French Republic. Before now, the 18-member states of the CRFM were short on aquaculture research. Now Ifremer is committed to helping the region develop its research capabilities. Useful as climate change is predicted to have serious economic effects on world wild catch fisheries.

But while scientists predict heavy losses for the Caribbean, they also suggest there is sufficient information for governments to begin to develop policies to help the industry adapt to the expected changes.

Jones sees aquaculture as a way of adaptation to climate change. This year he expanded the 111.5 square metre (1,200 square feet) green house to 557 sq metres (6,000 square feet), to double production in the short term with the possibility of a five-fold increase at peak agricultural production periods.

Jamaica and across the Caribbean were affected by extended droughts in the last two years and forced Wright and his counterparts to cut back production, but Jones’ green house and fish tanks were not affected. The system lost roughly one per cent, between 379 litres and 750 litres (100 and 200 gallons), from roughly 53,000 litres (14,000 gallons) of water running through the system at any one time, he said.

“Aquaculture is the way to go if we are to provide adequate protein for our people,” he said.

In fact, the position is supported by the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its 2014 State of Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

“Based on its dynamic performance over the last 30 years, with the fairly stable catches from capture fisheries, it is likely that the future growth of the fisheries sector will come mainly from aquaculture,” the report said.

According to the FAO, between 1990 and 2000, global production of food fish production grew 9.5 per cent per year from 32.2 million to 66.6 million tonnes at an average of 6.2 per cent per year between 2000 and 2012.

Regional growth has, however, remained static.

Regardless of the methods used, aquaculture “offers the region the best opportunities to provide a healthy, safe, guaranteed supply of food for our people,” Jones said.

Source: Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

Jamaica’s Aging Water Systems Falter Under Intense Heat and Drought

By Zadie Neufville

(The following article was published by InterPress Service on  Nov 18 2015 )

KINGSTON, Jamaica: This past summer Jamaicans sweltered through their third consecutive year of reduced rainfall resulting in wild fires, a crop-killing drought and daily water cuts.

As temperatures exceeded 93.7 F (34.2 Celsius) in several areas, the Meteorological Service urged Jamaicans to “Wake up to the realisation that climate change is already a fact of life.” Some of the hottest days on record had been recorded in July with even higher temperatures predicted for August.

54With storage running low and an expectation that conditions would exceed the drought of 2014, the National Water Commission (NWC) began its annual restrictions and rolling lock-offs. In 2014, thought to be Jamaica’s worse drought in more than 30 years, rainfall averaged 2 to 12 percent in the most affected areas.

Meteorologist Evan Thompson told reporters at the Gleaner’s Editors Forum on July 1, “We are talking about climate change, sometimes thinking about it as something that is still coming, whereas it is something that is already here.”

As the NWC scrambled to reactivate out-of-use wells to ease the shortages, many called for the dredging of dams and reservoirs to increase storage capacities. Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Robert Pickersgill announced a ‘prohibition notice’ with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail for “anyone caught using the precious liquid for anything other than household and sanitary use. “ For the first time Jamaica had attached enforcement penalties to water restrictions.

Kingston, one of the areas most affected by lock offs, sits on an abundance of tainted water in underground aquifers. But the capital city’s large untapped water source represents only a portion of the vast reserves that experts say remain under-exploited.

According to the Water Resources Authority (WRA), the island’s water management and regulatory body, Jamaica uses only 25 percent of its available groundwater resources and 11 percent of its accessible surface water.

Head of the WRA Basil Fernandez told IPS that it would take “proper water planning to deal with non-revenue water and improve transmission and distribution efficiency,” to solve the problem.

“There is need for a roadmap from the NWC and/or the Ministry on water supply planning that will set out clearly the areas of deficit, areas of surplus and how and when we will move from surplus to deficit areas,” he said.

Across the country households cleared inventories of water tanks, manufacturers increased production and hoteliers tapped into their storage tanks. Fires and the unrelenting sun destroyed the rain-fed farms of prized Blue Mountain Coffee crops, vegetable crops and Christmas trees that are grown in the buffer zone of the Blue Mountain National Park.

Lower down the slopes, fires also destroyed mature trees and vegetation in the Hope River and Yallahs Watershed areas, which supply 40 percent of NWC’s 600,000 customers in the Kingston Metropolitan region. Much of the area had been replanted between 2011 and 2013 as part of Jamaica’s Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Under the project, the Forestry Department replanted more than 300,000 hectares of forests in degraded upper watershed areas to reduce run-off, erosion and silting of the waterways.

LABUSA-SUGAR-CANE-WORKERSAs water restrictions widened, farmers on the plains fared no better. The usually six-month long sugar cane harvest was over in less than a month after fires and drought decimated the crop. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) reported that the drought was most severe in Manchester and St. Elizabeth the ‘bread basket’ areas that accounted for about 40 percent of domestic agricultural production. In other areas crops wilted in the fields.

Scientists are predicting that these episodes will worsen as climate change increases the intensity of droughts across the Caribbean. Thompson agreed, noting that the unseasonably dry periods are happening in the midst of the Atlantic Hurricane season that runs from June 1 to November 30.

Unless there is rainfall and constant inflows of water, the volume of water will not significantly increase, Fernandez, told IPS, effectively dismissing calls for more dams and the de-silting the Mona Reservoir and Hermitage Dam.

“There must be better coordination of climate change efforts and projects; better communication to get the public to buy into the these efforts as well as the inclusion of climate change scenarios and impacts in all policies and projects and maintenance and adaptation of systems rather than building new systems,” he said.

As part of Jamaica’s Vision 2030, to make the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change, Government has begun work to protect and better manage the distribution of water. At risk are the nation’s health, the tourism and agricultural industries and Jamaica’s food security.

Vision 2030 is built into Jamaica’s second national communication to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC).

In the last year, 25 water and sewage projects were completed to upgrade then old, leaky infrastructure which when coupled with theft, costs the NWC about 53 percent or 108 million liters of its daily production in the Kingston Metropolitan Area alone.

A 3.9 million dollar Watershed Management project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is expected to, among other things, improve water resource management in the Yallahs and Hope River watersheds. The five year programme is to carry out work on 44,486 hectares of land including sections of the region’s newest World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

The river at Castleton Gardens, Jamaica. Rivers are one of the main sources of water on the island.

The river at Castleton Gardens, Jamaica. Rivers are one of the main sources of water on the island.

An Artificial Aquifer Recharge facility to secure the sustainable abstraction of water from the aquifer by treating and returning excess water into natural underground storage is ongoing.

“This is a pioneering project, as it has never before been carried out in Jamaica or the Caribbean,” Pickersgill said at the July 2014 launch.

In addition, Government is also looking at plans to recover some of Kingston’s water that has been polluted by faecal bacteria from soak-away pits, latrines and saline intrusion.

The key to making the country resilient Fernandez said is “the preparation of communities and agencies to manage and conserve the resources; efficiently moving water from the north to the south of the island and a move to larger more efficient and resilient distribution systems.”

As Thompson explained, “So the droughts will be more severe, the rainfall episodes will be more significant, causing flooding. There will still be the need to work out how we manage the water resourced in between those episodes.”

The original article is here

Caribbean pregnant women with high exposure to pesticides

By Zadie Neufville

SciDev first published this article on September 8, 2015

Pregnant women in Caribbean are facing varying degrees of exposure to organophosphates, carbamates, phenoxy acid and chlorophenol, highly toxic compounds, according to a study that analyzed urine samples from pregnant ten countries in the region and recommends better education for the public about the risks of exposure.

f0069-01The study found the metabolite Dimethylphosphate (DMP) from organophosphates in more than 60 per cent of samples from Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines from a low of 1.28 to a high of 3.84 micrograms per litre (Bermuda the highest) were measured. Diethylthiophoospate (DETP) was detected in more than 60 percent of samples from Antigua, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Member of Jamaica’s Pesticide Review Committee (PRC) James Kerr, told SciDev.Net that Organochlorides and most other persistent organic compounds have been restricted, banned and phased out in Jamaica as the government seeks to minimise exposure to the chemicals, driven in part by the cost of monitoring and treatment and international agreements.

Dimethylphosphate (DMP) and 2-IPP (2-Isopropoxyphenol) were not detected in the samples from Jamaica and the residues measured in DEDTP (Diethyldithiophosphate), DMDTP (Dimethyldithiophosphate); Dimethylthiophospate (DMTP) levels recorded lower than samples from the US.

Kerr said Jamaica is working with Belize on a proposed regulatory regime that will strengthen the oversight on the importation and use of chemical pesticides. Sixty-seven of the samples from Belize tested positive for Phenoxy acid and 1100 micrograms per litre 2,5DCP and 2,4,5-TCP among other chemicals.

 Michael Ramsay, registrar at the Pesticide Control Authority pointed to a well-developed public education programme, which aims to get people to “read, understand and follow the label information”.

“If pesticide users understand the hazard of each pesticide and really believe that they personally could be at risk, they would be more careful to prevent exposure,” he said.

The Authority works closely with the Caribbean Poison Information Network (CARPIN) to provide information to medical personnel and the public on poison prevention and treatment.pregnant-women-may-be-unaware-of-possible-e-cigarette-risks-2015-6

Both Ramsay and Kerr agreed with the study’s authors, that where necessary, measures must be taken to limit exposure to highly toxic substances. Caribbean nations have banned and now work together to reduce and monitor the use and prevalence of the persistent organic pollutants and toxic compounds, which include many of the chemicals tested for in the study.

Organophosphates can result in neurological damage to the fetus by interfering with the development of the immune and other systems. The study was published in the Royal Journal of Chemistry (July 25).

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Embarazadas del Caribe con alta exposición a pesticidas

Las embarazadas del Caribe confrontan diversos grados de exposición a organofosfatos, carbamatos, ácido fenoxi y clorofenol, compuestos altamente tóxicos, reveló un estudio que analizó muestras de orina de embarazadas de diez países de la región y recomienda educar mejor a la población sobre los riesgos de su exposición.

Más del 60 por ciento de muestras procedentes de Canadá, Antigua y Barbuda, St. Kitts y Nevis, Santa Lucía y San Vicente y las Granadinas dieron positivo al metabolito dimetil fosfato de compuestos organofosforados, desde un mínimo de 1,28 microgramos por litro (µg/l) hasta 3,84 µg/l, en Bermuda. El Dietilfosfato se detectó en más del 60 por ciento de las muestras de Antigua, Jamaica y San Vicente y las Granadinas.

James Kerr, miembro del Comité de Revisión de Pesticidas de Jamaica (PRC por su sigla en inglés), dice a SciDev.Net que los organoclorados y la mayoría de otros compuestos orgánicos persistentes están restringidos, prohibidos o eliminados en Jamaica dado que el gobierno trata de minimizar la exposición a las sustancias químicas, impulsado en parte por el costo que conlleva la vigilancia y el tratamiento, y para cumplir con los acuerdos internacionales.

El dimetil fosfato y el 2-isopropoxifenol no fueron detectados en las muestras de Jamaica como tampoco residuos de dietilditiofosfato ni dimetilditiofosfato, mientras que los niveles de Dimetiltiofosfato registrados fueron menores que los encontrados en EE.UU.Pregnantwomen

Kerr informa que Jamaica trabaja con Belice un régimen regulatorio que reforzará la vigilancia de la importación y uso de pesticidas químicos. Sesenta y siete muestras procedentes de Belice dieron positivo para ácido fenoxi y altas dosis de microgramos por litro para otras sustancias químicas.

Michael Ramsay, registrador de la Autoridad de Control de Plaguicidas (PCA por su sigla en inglés) es partidario de un programa de educación pública bien desarrollado, cuyo objetivo sea que la gente lea, entienda y siga la información de las etiquetas.

“Si los usuarios de los pesticidas entienden el peligro de cada uno y se convencen que está en riesgo, serán más cuidadosos y no se expondrán”, subraya.

La PCA trabaja en estrecha colaboración con la Red de Información Toxicológica del Caribe (CARPIN) proporcionando información al personal médico y de salud pública sobre prevención y tratamiento toxicológico.

Ramsay y Kerr coinciden con los autores del estudio en tomar medidas donde sea necesario para limitar la exposición a sustancias altamente tóxicas. Los países caribeños han prohibido y ahora trabajan juntos para reducir y controlar el uso y la prevalencia de los contaminantes orgánicos persistentes y compuestos tóxicos, muchos de ellos analizados en el estudio.

Los compuestos organofosfatos pueden causar daño neurológico al feto al interferir con el desarrollo del sistema inmunológico y otros. El estudio fue publicado en el Royal Journal of Chemistry (25 de julio).

JAMAICA’S SUGAR JOB LOSSES SIGNAL AN INDUSTRY AT A CROSSROADS

by Zadie Neufville

This article was first published by EqualTimes on 26 August 2015
JAMAICA’S  sugar industry is attempting to weather a perfect storm of high production costs, a two-year drought resulting in falling yields for some of its most productive cane fields and low price forecasts on a highly competitive global market.

As a result, restructuring and job losses are expected, as already seen in the eastern parish of St Thomas. But for some, this could mark the start of a new beginning.

On 7 August, cane cutters and harvesters for the Golden Grove sugar factory received notices and 14-weeks severance pay as the owners, Seprod Jamaica Limited, acted on a two-year plan to cut cost by outsourcing cultivation and harvesting operations.LABUSA-SUGAR-CANE-WORKERS

“Approximately 600 field workers, including those in tractor and transport operations will be given their redundancy payments on 4 September,” University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) representative Clifton Grant told Equal Times.

There has been no agreement on how many workers will be re-employed by the new, as yet unnamed, contractor. But trade unions representing the workers – UAWU, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU) – say they will do their best to ensure the new contracts are favourable to the workers.

Golden Grove is currently one of just six functioning sugar factories in Jamaica and one of just a handful of large-scale employers in rural St Thomas. Although factory jobs will not be affected, the loss of 600 jobs could have a major impact on the agriculture-based economy of St Thomas, which has some of the highest levels of unemployment on the island.

BITU’s representative Hanif Brown told the Jamaica Observer newspaper: “During the out-crop period these workers receive guaranteed payments, and approximately 60 per cent of them would continue working at reduced pay. We don’t know what will happen under the [new] contractual arrangement”.

Grant told Equal Times: “We will continue negotiations with the management to protect the workers rights”.

As one of the island’s top manufacturers of food and household products, and majority shareholder of the Golden Grove factory, Seprod made the decision to outsource all field operations after losing US$17.4 million of a US$26.1 million investment in the factory in 2009.

cane fieldIn Jamaica, although some aspects of cane cutting are mechanised, most sugar cane is still cut by hand, dating back to the days when the island was a British colony and sugar – the empire’s most valued commodity – was planted and harvested by African slaves.

As well as providing thousands of jobs, proponents of hand cutting say it prevents crop damage and allows farmers to keep older cane roots that result in bigger yields in the coming season. In addition, in some hillside areas, cane fields are only accessible by donkey, mule and foot.

Changing fortunes
The Golden Grove redundancies are symptomatic of Jamaica’s struggle to carve out its place in today’s highly competitive global sugar industry.

Brazil, India and China are world leaders in cane sugar production, but while its yields are tiny by comparison, in Jamaica, sugar is still king. As well as being its primary agricultural export, the sugar industry is the country’s second largest employer with some 28,000 out-of-season and 38,000 in-season workers contributing US$74.5 million to the GDP in 2010.

Changes to Jamaica’s sugar industry began in 2008 with the privatisation of five dilapidated government-owned factories. To facilitate the sale, around 8,000 sugar workers were laid-off under the European Union-funded Sugar Transformation Programme (STP).

Some €147 million (approximately US$109.8 million at the exchange rate of the time) was paid-out to assist with the privatisation process, to enhance the quality of life in ‘sugar dependent’ communities while revamping the ailing sector after years of “under-investment and poor commercial management,” according to documents from the EU mission in Jamaica.

The agreement also provided for redundancy payments to facilitate divestment and provide training and funding for alternative forms of employment. Additionally, it funded farmers to replant old fields and establish new ones to help Jamaica meet a national production target of 200,000 tonnes per annum.

cane-blog480This target is yet to be met: last year, Jamaican sugar producers yielded 154,000 tonnes of sugar; this year that figure fell to 134,000 tonnes.

In 2009, the ’sugar protocol’ – a long standing-agreement which provided Jamaica and other sugar producers from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states duty-free and quota-free access to the EU sugar market – came to an end. Until 2012, ACP countries were still allow to export sugar duty-free to the EU, but prices and quantities were not fixed.

However, a subsequent transitional agreement – known as the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries – which provides help to countries to help deal with the changes – ends in 2017. George Callaghan, chief executive of Jamaica’s Sugar Industry Authority in Jamaica, recently described the move as an “earth-shattering event”.

In anticipation, the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (a local subsidiary of COMPLANT, the China National Complete Plant Import and Export Corporation Limited, which owns and operates the island’s three largest sugar factories) removed itself from a cooperative agreement to sell its sugar through Jamaica Cane Product Sales Limited (JCPS) – the agency which markets most Jamaican sugar at home abroad.

Seprod is now also seeking government approval to market its own sugar in an attempt to secure a higher price for its product on the local and global market. However, Hugh Blake, chief executive of JCPS, remains confident that the current set-up is beneficial for all those involved.

“When we lost our preferential markets three years ago, Jamaica managed to negotiate some of the highest prices paid for sugar in Europe,” he tells Equal Times.

caneblue03Whatever happens, for now, there remains some optimism despite the uncertain future. Allan Rickards, chairman of the of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers’ Association, told Equal Times that his association, which represents all of the island’s cane farmers, has seen numerous improvements to the working conditions and welfare of its members in recent years.

“The lay-offs could be a blessing for workers who want to use their severance packages to set up small businesses. Some workers will grasp the opportunity to do other things; many will use the payments to boost their own farming and other businesses. Some will also find work in other sections of the island and others will get jobs with the new contractors,” he said.

Rickards pointed out that most of Golden Grove’s field workers are seasonal and frequently older workers, earning a living out-of-season as farmers, shop keepers or by planting their own cane crops. Many are tired of the hard work of cane cutting and would relish the opportunity to make money some other way. For them, receiving termination pay from Golden Grove could be a good thing.

But for those who have no choice but to remain cane cutters, things to don’t look so sweet. Over at the Worthy Park Estate in the nearby parish of St Catherine’s, drought conditions make it doubtful that extra work will be available this year. Office manager Herman Chambers told Equal Times: “We have enough cutters at Worthy Park and with the drought, I don’t think we will need additional workers”.

Original story is here

Herramienta de predicción climática muestra su eficacia

THis article was originally published by SciDev.com on July 13, 2015

Herramienta de predicción climática muestra su eficacia

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] Los agricultores del Caribe pueden planificar sus días de siembra evitando los periodos de sequía gracias a la Herramienta de Predictibilidad Climática (CPT por su sigla en inglés).
 
Utilizada por el Servicio Meteorológico de Jamaica para hacer su primer pronóstico oficial de sequía en noviembre de 2013, actualmente es empleada por 23 países del Caribe y América Central para monitorear sequías y otros eventos climáticos, y se espera que pronto otras regiones también la aprovechen.
 
Usando Google Earth y mapas GPS localizados, la CPT produce pronósticos climáticos estacionales usando el modelo de circulación general y las temperaturas de la superficie del mar. 

“Es una herramienta extremadamente importante para la predicción del cambio climático, específicamente para la agricultura, la pesca y sectores hídricos que requieren proyecciones de lluvias”.

Jeffery Spooner, Oficina de Meteorología de Jamaica

“Es una herramienta que proporciona alertas tempranas de sequía en localidades específicas con tres a seis meses de anticipación, de modo que los agricultores pueden planificar sus siembras alrededor de los períodos más secos”, explica a SciDev.Net Glenroy Brown, técnico en meteorología.
 
El diseñó la CPT junto con Simon Masson, científico climático de la Universidad de Columbia.
 
Basada en Windows, la CPT combina una serie de aplicaciones para generar pronósticos de uno a cinco días, específicos para un país y localidad. La información se descompone y simplifica aún más mediante codificación por colores y mensajes de texto que son enviados a agricultores y otros usuarios.
 
Fue usada primero para predecir una ‘alta probabilidad’ de lluvias inferiores al promedio en los tres meses que siguieron a la “peor sequía” que experimentó Jamaica en más de 30 años.
 
Nuevamente se usó en febrero de 2014 para predecir una sequía en el este de la isla, donde la precipitación promedio fue entre 2 y 12 por ciento. Se esperaba que la sequía durara hasta bien entrado setiembre.
 
Durante ese periodo la producción agrícola cayó 30 por ciento. Más de 500 agricultores recibieron mensajes de alerta por texto y se enviaron aproximadamente 700.000 boletines a funcionarios de extensión agrícola.
 
Sheldon Scott, de la Autoridad de Desarrollo Agrícola Rural de Jamaica (RADA por su sigla en inglés) afirma que los agricultores que usaron la información vía SMS pudieron eludir los peores impactos de la sequía.

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“Campos enteros de cultivos se estaban muriendo. Los impactos fueron visibles entre los agricultores que usaron la información y los que no lo hicieron, porque los primeros pudieron manejar los factores de mitigación de forma más eficaz”, refiere.
 
RADA continúa usando la CPT para mejorar sus servicios de extensión. La comprobación de sus beneficios hace que más pequeños agricultores que dependen de las lluvias usen la información que brinda, precisa Scott.
 
La CPT ha sido modificada para brindar indicadores de alerta temprana sobre velocidad de los vientos y decoloración de los arrecifes coralinos entre otras aplicaciones.
 
Jeffery Spooner, Jefe del Servicio Meteorológico de Jamaica dice que la CPT es “una herramienta extremadamente importante para la predicción de cambios climáticos, específicamente para la agricultura, la pesca y sectores hídricos que requieren proyecciones de lluvias”.

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Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.

Jamaica’s Coral Gardens Give New Hope for Dying Reefs

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by InterPress Service on July 13, 2015
With time running out for Jamaica’s coral reefs, local marine scientists are taking things into their own hands, rebuilding the island’s reefs and coastal defences one tiny fragment at a time – a step authorities say is critical to the country’s climate change and disaster mitigation plans.

Coral farming

Diver placing fragments of coral on a ‘tree’

Five years ago, local hoteliers turned to experimental coral gardening in a desperate bid to improve their diving attractions, protect their properties from frequent storms surges and arrest beach erosion.

In 2014, their efforts were boosted when the Centre for Marine Science (CMS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona scored a 350,000-dollar grant from the International Development Bank (IDB) for the Coral Reef Restoration Project.

Project director and coastal ecologist Dale Webber told IPS that his team will carry out genetic research, attempt to crack the secrets of coral spawning and re-grow coral at several locations across the island and at the centre’s Discovery Bay site. The project will also share the research findings with other islands as well as another IDB project, Belize’s Fragments of Hope.

The reefs of Discovery Bay have been studied for more than 40 years, and are the centre of reef research in Jamaica. It is also home to several species of both fast and slow growing corals that Webber says are particularly resilient.

“They have tolerated disease, global warming, sea level rise, bleaching, etc. – all man and the environment have thrown at them – and are still flourishing. So they have naturally selected based on their resilience,” he explains.

A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. The five species are Orbicella annularis; Orbicella faveolata; Siderastrea siderea; Acropora palmata and Undaria agaricites. These fragments are being monitored as they grow and will be planted on the reefs.

Jamaica’s reefs – which make up more than 50 per cent of the 1022 kilometres of coastline, have over the years been battered by pollution, overfishing and improper development.  Finally in 1980 Hurricane Allen smashed them.

Many hoped the reefs would regenerate, but sluggish growth caused by, among other things, frequent severe weather events and an increase in bleaching incidences due to climatic changes sent stakeholders searching for options.

A massive Caribbean-wide bleaching event in 2005 resulted in widespread coral death and focussed attention on continuing sand loss at some of the island’s most valuable beaches. But aside from the devastation caused by the hurricane, scientists say the poor condition of the reefs are also the result of a die-off of the sea urchin population in 1982 and the continued capture of juvenile reef fish and the parrot.

erosion

Sediment from land slides and agricultural run offs smother the reefs

Predictions are that the region could lose all its coral in 20 years. Some reports say that only about eight per cent of Jamaican corals are alive. However, new surveys conducted by the UWI at several sites across the island show coral cover of between 12 and 20 per cent.

Along Jamaica’s north coast from Oracabessa in St. Mary to Montego Bay, coral recovery projects have yielded varying levels of success. The Golden Eye Beach Club, the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary and Montego Bay Marine Park are among those that have experimented with coral gardening.

The process is tedious, as divers must tend the nurseries/gardens, removing algae from the fragments of corals as they grow. The pieces are then fixed to the reefs. The results are encouraging and many see this is an expensive but sure way to repopulate dying reefs. A combination of techniques, management measures and regeneration have boosted coral cover at Discovery Bay from five percent to 14 per cent in recent years.

“We hope to supplement this and get it growing faster,” Webber who also heads UWI’s Centre for Marine Sciences says.

At the Centre’s newest Alligator Head location in the east of the island, the aim is to increase the coral cover from the existing 40 per cent. The nurseries have also been set up at the site in Portland to compare the differences in growth rate between sites.

At the NGO-operated Montego Bay Marine Park, where an artificial reef and coral nursery was established in the fish sanctuary, outreach officer Joshua Bailey reports:  “There have been moderate successes. New corals are spawning and attracting fish.”

He cautioned that the impact of “urban stressors” on the park and in surrounding communities – high human population density and high levels of run-off – makes it difficult to judge the success of the restoration.

One of the most recent projects proposed the construction of an artificial reef off the shore of Sandals Resorts International Negril, as one of many solutions to reduce beach erosion along the famous ‘Seven Mile’ stretch of the Negril coast. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) approved the construction of an artificial reef in 1.2 metres of water offshore the Resort’s Negril bay property.

Andrew Ross is responsible for the Sandals and several other projects. A marine biologist and head of Seascape Caribbean, he explains that the Negril project lasted one year. It allowed for the study of fast and slow growing coral species and included the construction of a wave attenuation structure to determine how wave action influences sand accumulation. The coral nursery and the structures were populated with soft corals, sponges and a variety of other corals from the area.

In Oracabessa, a fishing village on 16 kilometres east of the tourist town of Ocho Rios, the commitment of the fishermen who initiated the project and their private sector partners have kept the reef and replanted corals clean and healthy, demonstrating how successful the process can be in restoring the local fisheries.

“The fishermen have done a beautiful job of keeping the corals alive and the fish sanctuary successful,” Ross says of the project he started in 2009.

Much of Jamaica’s reefs have reportedly been smothered by silt from eroding hillsides, the algal blooms from eutrophication as a result of agricultural run-offs and the disposal of sewage in the coastal waters.

The reefs are critical to Jamaica’s economy as tourism services account for a quarter of all jobs and more than 50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.  Fisheries directly employ an estimated 33,000 people. Overall, the Caribbean makes between 5.0 and 11 billion dollars each year from fishing and tourism, an indication of the importance of reefs to the economies of the islands.

tourismat beach

Reefs support tourism services which inturn earm billions for the country and the region.

The Restoration Project provides the CMS with the resources to undertake a series of research activities “to among other things mitigate coral depletion, and identify and cultivate species that are resistant to the ravages of the impact of climate change,” Webber says.

In an email outlining the process, he notes that the project will provide “applicable information and techniques to other countries in the region that are experiencing similar challenges,” during its 18-month lifetime.

Expectations are that at the end of the project, there will be visible changes in coral cover. The successes seen in Oracabessa, where fishermen report improvements in catch rates and fish sizes, and at other sites are an indication that coral gardening is working.

Like Ross, Webber expects that there will be changes in coral cover at replanting sites within a three- to five-year period. 

Edited by Kitty Stapp