CCADRRP Project Background

Climate Change Adaptation & Disaster Risk Reduction Project
Country: Jamaica
Total Budget: EUR 4,482,420
European Union contribution: EUR 4,130,000
UNEP Contribution: EUR 180,000
GOJ Contribution (Government of Jamaica): EUR 172,420
Total Project Duration: 30 months

Jamaica’s natural resources have suffered a decline in quantity and quality over time, due primarily to its heavy dependence on these resources, cultural/traditional unsustainable practices, and the many natural hazards which have affected the island. The coastal zone contains an estimated 75% of industries and service sectors and is responsible for generating approximately 90 % of the island’s GDP. The island’s two international airports are also located along the coast. In addition, more than 60% of Jamaica’s population resides within 2 km of the coast, with the majority either reliant on, or affected by coastal activities. In 2007, a total of about 71% of the poor lived in rural areas and the livelihoods of a large proportion of households in these areas depend on natural resources.

Over the last 25 – 30 years, Jamaica has experienced an increase in the frequency of natural events, primarily floods related to inclement weather, tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes, and droughts and landslides. The adverse impacts of hurricanes included a decline in the health of coral reefs; loss of seagrass beds; severe beach erosion and loss of forested areas. The island has, and will continue to be affected by increased frequency and intensity of tropical weather systems, which can partly be attributed to climate change. Between 2004 and 2008, five major storm events caused damage and losses estimated at US$1.2 billion. These have had significant impact on the national economy; the quality of the country’s natural environment and the livelihoods of thousands of people, particularly in rural areas. In addition, the country has experienced loss of lives and property; damage to infrastructure; periodic isolation of communities; and disruption to the school system and health services.

Jamaica’s wetlands were thought to have covered approximately 2 % of Jamaica’s total surface, but have declined. They have been impacted severely by the passage of several tropical cyclones and frontal systems over the years. Mangrove forests occur along much of Jamaica’s south coast and in isolated strands along the north coast. These mangrove ecosystems are the breeding habitats for many marine species, including shrimp, molluscs, mussels, clams, oysters and some fish, which are very important food resources for the country. Mangroves assist in improving coastal water quality; in addition, they protect shorelines from erosion and other harmful effects of strong winds and waves. Environmental degradation affects all levels – local and national. At the local level, the coastal communities who depend on these ecosystems are disadvantaged; residents often rely primarily on agriculture and/or tourism. Housing is often compromised, particularly with the onset of tropical systems. At the national level, the economy is likely to be affected as agriculture and tourism are critical to sustaining it. It is therefore critical that action is taken at all levels, particularly through collaborative efforts, to reduce further degradation and to restore terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems and ensuring greater resilience to climate change impacts.

Jamaica, is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and faces direct threats from climate change because of its geographic location. Detailed climate modelling has not yet been possible for Jamaica, but preliminary research suggests that the region is likely to see increases in extreme weather events such as flood rains and droughts, and an increase in the intensity of hurricanes. Coastal areas in Jamaica are at the forefront of climate change impacts as they are directly affected by storm surges, physical development and sea level rise. With sea levels projected to rise by an average of 2 – 3mm per year during the first half of this century, the effects on the coastal areas will be severe, and include erosion and coastal land subsidence. Coastal areas are already affected by saline intrusion which is likely to be exacerbated by climate change. These issues highlight the importance of this project which seeks to reduce risks and assist with adaptation to climate change. The project targets various groups these include; CBOs, NGOs, students, teachers, farmers, fisherfolk, Private Sector groups, media groups, Local Authorities, and communities.

Many of the activities within the project will use lessons learnt from other projects, and may also act as a tool for other projects or programmes. Additionally, it is expected to have a multiplier effect on the local and national levels. Communities and other local groups stand to benefit from improved resilience of natural ecosystems such that there will be less damage and losses from weather systems. On a macro-economic scale, however, the benefits may be seen in reduced damage and loss due to storm events, and the protection of those sectors which play a key part in sustaining the economy including agriculture and tourism. The project will build on scientific knowledge through data collection. In Jamaica, farming and fishing is mainly done by males, therefore they will be targeted specifically through public education programmes, in order to overcome some destructive traditions and practices.

There is a link between terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems such that activities up-stream can affect those downstream. The concept of “ridge to reef” is one that has been adopted and is being practiced in Jamaica. It has been proven and recognised that protecting the hillsides from degradation will help in protecting the coastal and marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs that suffer from land-based activities, in particular sedimentation. Effective management therefore dictates that an integrated approach is needed. The results were designed with this in mind, where it targets and benefits various groups and sectors.

The project targets the water, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors which are inextricably linked. Watersheds and forests play a key role in the provision of water for varied uses. With proper and effective management of these ecosystems, it is likely that the water quality and availability will be improved. It is also expected to reduce the likelihood of flooding downstream which continues to pose a problem for many communities.