UNEP DTU supports resource-efficient farming in Jamaica

October 27, 2017

In Jamaica, small and medium-scale farmers are the most vulnerable to current and future effects of climate change due to their lack of technology, knowledge and financing. These effects are threatening the agriculture sector, which provides employment to 18% of the country’s population.  New business models and technologies are needed to enable farmers to not only adapt but also thrive in this new context.

UNEP DTU Partnership and INMED Partnerships for Children have addressed these challenges by carrying out the ‘Financing the Adaptive Agricultural Programme in Jamaica’ project, which under the Adaptation Mitigation Readiness (ADMIRE) programme is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (DANIDA) and the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate.

The project takes a commercial approach to promote aquaponics technology in fresh vegetables and fish production. With the aim of implementing an agri-business development programme focused on making aquaponics a commercially viable technology for small and medium-scale Jamaican farmers, it also improves linkages to market buyers and financial institutions and will provide hundreds of farmers with the necessary technical and business skills to successfully manage a commercial-scale aquaponics enterprise.

What is Aquaponics Technology?

Aquaponics is an innovative farming technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production). It can support over 50 different vegetable and spice/herb crops with a production rate that is, on average, up to 10 times higher than traditional farming system on equivalent space. This resource-efficient system requires substantially less water (80-95%), energy (uses solar for less energy consumption and emissions), labour and cost. It allows the growth of local, organic, high quality produce without the waste compromising environmental conditions.

Achieving Climate Resilience and SDGs through Partnerships

The Aquaponics system developed by INMED is a low-cost modular technique that can be expanded incrementally with additional modules as increasing income allows. This method of farming is particularly suited to the needs of women, youth, and people with disabilities, as units are waist height and require minimal physical effort to maintain, thereby contributing to SDG 5, ‘Empowering women and girls’, and SDG 10, ‘Reduced inequalities’.

A conservative technology adoption rate of 25% of farmers below the age of 35 in Jamaica would result in 3,250 new aquaponic farmers and enhance domestic food security significantly, directly aligning with SDG 2 of ‘zero hunger’.

UNEP DTU Partnership and INMED Partnerships for Children managed the development of the business case, which tested the technical and commercial feasibility of the aquaponics technology in Jamaica and supported the establishment of a financing structure. Despite the sizeable upfront investment required for set up, the system is profitable, with a relatively short payback period of approximately four years, depending on loan conditions.

UNEP DTU’s engagement in the project was concluded by a business case presentation hosted by the Development Bank of Jamaica in September 2017. In this meeting, key findings underlining the technological and commercial feasibility were presented to commercial banks.

Supported by the ADMIRE project funds, INMED developed strategic partnerships with market buyers and secured government endorsements from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. Access to financing for smallholder farmers was secured in collaboration with financial institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Development Bank of Jamaica.

Through the business case and these partnerships, INMED is initiating a four-year programme involving extensive technical training with certified experts, as well as direct guidance on financing, business planning, marketing, financial management and connecting to stable markets, allowing the programme to scale and reach greater numbers of farmers.

The main results expected by the end of the implementation period of the four-year programme include 300 participants completing the online prequalification training course, of which 150 agro-entrepreneurs will adopt new climate-smart aquaponics technology; 150 aquaponic farms will be linked with strategic business partners; and USD 17,000 average annual sales will be earned by participating aquaponics farms.

This project is aligned with Jamaica’s National Development Plan–Vision 2030, which provides the framework to ensure that climate change issues are mainstreamed into national policies and development activities. In addition, it is aligned to IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund’s Climate-Smart Agriculture thematic area, which seeks to promote climate adaptation and access to finance to improve the resilience of farmers – while also aligning with SDG 8 of decent work and economic growth. This fund will support the acceleration of technology adoption and commercial partnerships with key private sector stakeholders such as Grace Kennedy Agro Processors, Round Hill Resorts and other hotels and supermarket chains. This project has the capacity for replication and scaling to other countries with similar limitations and challenges.