The Economic Impact of Seasonal Drought Forecast Information Service in Jamaica, 2014-2015

Starting in 2014, Jamaica has been in one of the worst droughts recorded since the 1970s. The drought’s effects on rural livelihood and the Jamaican economy have been devastating. According to widely published reports, the annual agricultural production declined by 30% in 2014 relative to 2013. This, along with brush fires, resulted in $1 billion loss for the economy. In

response to the drought, the Jamaican Meteorological Service (JMS), in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) produced new seasonal drought related forecast information. The information was provided to over 300 farmers during June 2014-June 2015 by JMS with the help of Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

The farmers received the information through farmer forums, phone text messages, extension agents, and by contacting the JMS. While anecdotal stories suggest that the losses in agricultural production may have been much greater if not for the provision of the information service by the JMS, they do not constitute robust evidence regarding the economic benefit of the information

service. The goal of this study is to evaluate the economic impact of the service provided. The following findings stand out. First, unlike many developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the farmers in Jamaica have much higher educational attainments, which is an indication that they would be relatively more accessible to any information campaign, for example provision of climate information service and raising awareness about the climate change.

Second, the income and livelihood sources of the Jamaican farmers are not very diversified, beyond agricultural-based activities. On average agriculture accounts for over 60% of the household income. Further, within agriculture, the on-farm activities are not very diversified. These results suggest high economic vulnerability of the farmers to climate variability and change.

Third, lack of water and finances, and the uncertainty of water/rainfall/drought (uncertainty of WRD, henceforth) are the three most frequently reported challenges and constraints faced by the farmers. Limited access to finances is a concern for another reason, it

may inhibit a farmer’s ability to act upon new climate information. Fourth, TV, radio, and the agricultural extension services provided by the RADA are the three most commonly reported sources of climate information for the farmers. They are also the

three most reliable and trustworthy sources of climate information as identified by the farmers. Together, they suggest a relatively low level of awareness about the services that originate with the JMS. This is a potential obstacle to the utilization of climate information disseminated by the JMS.

Fifth, the impact of drought on agricultural production during June 2014 – June 2015 is substantial. The average reported percent loss in the volume of agricultural production relative to production in the preceding year is 57%, a figure much higher than the widely reported loss of 30%. The self-reported income status of Jamaican farmers was much worse in June 2015 relative to the income status in June 2014.

Sixth, the uncertainty of WRD has a substantial adverse effect on agricultural production. For the group of farmers faced with the uncertainty of WRD, the loss in the agricultural production was on average 25% larger relative to the mean loss of 57%. However, in the former group, the reported loss in agricultural production declines with the increasing degree of exposure to the information service. In other words, the losses in agricultural production for the farmers faced with the constraint of WRD would have been much greater if not for the provision of the information service.

Seventh, not all of the components of the information service were effective. The information service provided through farmer forums and phone text messages were the most effective mechanisms of information dissemination. Eight, the information service contributed to the agricultural production by influencing the agricultural decisions and management of the farmers. It influenced the planting and sowing time, choice of crops, harvesting time, amount of land cultivated, mulching practices, chemical and fertilizer use, and irrigation.

Finally, there is strong demand for the future provision of similar climate information services. More importantly, the farmers would be willing to pay for timely, relevant, and accurate seasonal climate forecast information.

 

You can read the full report by click on the link below.

The Economic Impact of Seasonal Drought Forecast Information Service in Jamaica, 2014-2015

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