Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jamaica’s Yearly Drought - Permaculture and Sustainability


There are two major factors that is guaranteed to affect economic growth and our standard of living, these two things affect us almost every year, at the same time. The effects of hurricane and drought on the Jamaican economy and society are well known and expected. It is not if the island will experience a storm, hurricane and/or a drought but more a matter of when the island will be affected by these two things, it is inevitable because of our geographic location.  It is inevitable regardless of which Political Party is in power at the time, both the PNP and the JLP are powerless to stop the events and only use them as excuse about why we have not achieved growth. Growth was always this close... if it was not for the Hurricane or the drought.

The Political Class long and short term solution... pathetic

Political Class and Technocratic Incompetence

There is very little we can do about storms and Hurricanes except prepare the very best we can and hope that the ride we are taken on by mother nature, is smooth with little destruction and that most of us make it out alive with our houses intact. However with regard to drought it is another story, yes we cannot control Mother Nature, we cannot make it rain, we do not have that power but what we do have some control over is putting in place measures to minimize the effects of the yearly drought during the dry season by taking certain actions during the rainy season and in Jamaica the drought and rainy season comes back to back. What amazes me is that in the face of certain suffering resulting from the yearly drought, we have done almost nothing to minimize the suffering it causes, except complain, which fixes nothing. It stands to reason that most of what we are going through at the moment is self-inflicted, we are doing this to ourselves because of our inaction.


Also please spare me the rubbish about political parties, when the JLP was in power they did nothing about it and instead waste our time with some grand over the top LNG project that never saw the light of day and since the PNP was elected they have also done nothing about it but instead waste our time with over the top 380 megawatt power plants and rare earth metal projects that have not seen the light of day and never will.

Summer Merriment and the Yearly Drought

In 2009 Government licensed 17,600 entertainment events and in 2014 Government licensed 24,000 entertainment events with 66% of the events were street Dances.


This incompetence however does not stop with our political class, although there are those among us who sleep better at night placing 100% of the blame on the politicians and in between our constant complaining, our merriment loving and poverty screaming people spend their time borrowing money to attend weekend long merriment events we have done nothing by way of public activism for the greater good, we are not Nation Builder but destroyer of societies.

Why go to a water Party with Shower caps
During last year’s drought and in between the constant complaining, Jamaicans kept the most water parties and defended these water parties even though the dam was almost empty and no water was coming out of the pipes, reason for our over the top merriment making..  "a requirement to survive hard times". This year’s drought is no exception as the amount of foam, water parties and week end long merriment have reached record levels. The party lending company “Sprint Financial Services Limited” boasted that borrowing to attend summer merriment was at a record high and during the summer alone the company lend upwards of $2.5 million (and still tallying) in loans, were disbursed to party-goers, a whopping 56 per cent increase from last year, such is the extend of my people’s suffering that they must borrow to attend merriment events.


The company said “On average, we disburse $30,000 per person for a loan. The funds are then reimbursed through salary deductions, and 50 per cent of our clients have opted to use guarantors in order to secure loans” …Someone actually co-signed for these loans so that careless people can enjoy their nightly merriment.



The Island of Jamaica is not short of water, we have more than enough water to satisfy our demands even through our periods of drought. However what Jamaica is short of is insight, Jamaica lacks the ability to seriously plan and implement plans based on forecasting in the interest of human development. Jamaica lacks the ability to manage its own water resources and as I type this a large percentage of our ground water is simply running out to sea.


Our current water harvesting techniques was put in place at the turn of the 19th century, long time ago to solve early 19th century problems, to satisfy the needs of 19th century population but since then our population has increase and on the move and as such our needs have also changed, we are demanding more water but our harvesting abilities have not changed to meet that demand. 

We know drought is coming, we know we will go through water lock offs, we know the drought will affect our ability to grow our economy and still we have done next to nothing to prepare for the yearly drought but mark my words when I say the planners of the summer merriment are already planning next year’s season of merriment activities and party loans will increase over this year’s borrowings.

Turn Your Hand Make fashion – Water Harvesting
I was walking up Jacks Hill the other day when I came across a leaking fire hydrant which was dripping at about 1 drip per second, 60 drips per minute, that is 3,600 drips per hour, which is 86,400 drips per day which translates to 31,536,000 drips per year and apparently the person who lived beside that dripping fire hydrant must have also done the math because through a stroke of simplistic genius this is what he did to capture that drip of water and channel it into his yard. This to me represents everything about Permaculture, sustainability and self-reliance that I love. 60 drips per minute is about 8.64 gallons per day, which is 258.2 gallons per month(30 days) and 3,153.6 gallons per year of wasted water from that one leaking fire hydrant.



Most people who know me, know that I am fascinated by the concept and practice of Permaculture, which at its core is the concept of sustainability and self-reliance, in which water harvesting, recycling and reuse plays a big part, water security goes hand in hand with food security. Permaculture brings with it a sustainable way of looking at our consumption and usage patterns as well as identifying in nature where we can best utilize natures natural resources. Permaculture design always starts with identifying the best ways to access water to satisfy our needs. If one is going to buy a property, let’s say a farm then the first thing that must come to mind is an independent water source because without it you are certainly buggered.



A lot of our rain water is wasted with regards to human consumption, I would say about 80% of our rain water is lost. With regards to our garden we want rain water to enter our soil, instead of running off into street gutters and we strive to design landscapes that allows for maximum rainwater absorption. What we want here is to control the flow of water in and around our space, if we are in control then we can decide how best to use this water, nothing should be left to chance. Roof tops should be designed with water channeling in mind, we want to control where that water goes once it is on our roof and where it comes off the roof to be stored in cisterns for use or directed to into the garden soil.


A lot of people in Jamaica are not waiting for the Government to solve their water issues and are taking matters into their own hands. They are designing and implementing various water harvesting techniques and features. Our roofs are lined with gutters in an attempt to capture and control the water runoffs and at every exit point we have pipes that leads into a plastic barrels positioned around the house. The ultimate goal is to link up all the gutters to channel the water to a central location serviced by 6 or more barrels in the same place and when one barrel fills the water runs off into the adjoining barrel with the main barrel used for natural filtration making sure we have clean water.

Even the yard is designed to control the flow of water, levels are used to control water runoffs and channels dug to direct the water to storage pits or just to areas of the yard that does not get enough water. If water is going to leave the yard then it is only allowed to leave the yard after you have used and reused it for primary or secondary purposes. Rain water can be channeled back into the house and use to flush toilets or for drinking if filtered properly.



The bathroom face basin is another point where water is wasted, the water going into a face basin is almost never contaminated because we use it to do trivial things like wash our hands after using the loo, wash our faces or brush our teeth. That water can be channeled into the toilet tank for flushing or captured in barrels for watering the plants as the soap in the water can be used to control a wide range of plant pests. The dishwasher uses a large amount of water that normally just enter the sewage but the dishwasher can empty’s the water into a series of barrels and that water is recycled, used for secondary purposes.

This is our simple set up, designed to capture water from the basin for watering plants, however the extraction hose can also be placed into the toilet tank for flushing the toilet with waste water.
Water use to water plants or flush the Loo
 The recycling possibilities in one’s home is endless but not every Jamaican cares about sustainability, there is a certain section of our society, usually the ones who scream poverty the loudest, do not think about sustainability, recycling and reuse because to them screaming poverty is an excuse not to. A lot of these people have decided they do not have to think because they stand by their principles that Government “A-fi” must look after them, give them stuff.

Most of these people have a well established/developed sense of entitlement and they represent the waste in our society, these are the people who throw garbage on the ground and then complain that Government not cleaning up after them fast enough. Water is constantly being wasted across Jamaica, fire hydrants and pipes left open and their justification for this is that Nation Water Commission are all thieves anyway, not realizing that they are not hurting a company but hurting themselves. These people can cause the most damage and scream poverty and oppression the loudest then demand Government must come fix it, such is the carelessness of their existence.

One of the many barrels we have around the house
I have found that people in richer, more developed first world countries with a higher standard of living are more inclined to adopt sustainable way of living than people in the developing third world and Jamaica is a perfect example of that. Which makes me wonder why people with the least and who lives closer to nature have a bigger sense of entitlement than people in richer countries. We are the first to turn our backs on tried and true traditional sustainable ways, which is what my aunt’s gardener did when he informed her that he does not drink water from the pipe but prefers bottled water, even though he could not even afford the bus fare to come to work. Jamaica in the 50’s and the 60’s was much more sustainable than Jamaica in 2015 but we were sustainable not because we wanted to be but because we had to be, it was just the way things were.

However we have defined those days as the dark backwards days, never to be repeated and these days as modern even though these modern, pretentious times is not sustainable to us or beneficial to Jamaica and the planet. 

Portland residents can now generate green electricity simply by turning on their water taps and flushing their toilets. Fast Company reports that the Oregon city is using a state-of-the art system to capture energy from water flowing through the city’s pipelines.

The entire sustainable movement came about because we have seen modern time and found it wasteful and lacking. We realized that as a people we cannot continue to live this non sustainable lifestyle, it simply will not last, it is self-destructive and counterproductive. We have identified some past practices as the most beneficial way of existing, some by applying modern development to them as in the case of using solar energy. As a people we need to start thinking and acting out of the box, moving closer to nature and seeing value in simple things.


Persons await their turn to get water from a truck in Annotto Bay, St Mary on Tuesday. (PHOTO: EVERARD OWEN)


After two days of Rainfall

Nine Miles water catchment area for the village


Drip Irrigation System




No Gutter, No Control, Wasted water