The Ja REEACH II Project, which engaged nearly 3,000 youth in climate change awareness, was one of twelve USAID-funded initiatives in Jamaica in the period from 2012 to 2018. A new report from the ATLAS Project looks at these initiatives to find lessons, impacts, and recommendations.

USAID’s Jamaica Programs Have Lessons for the World

By Christine Chumbler

As residents of an island nation, Jamaicans are all too aware of the risks, and realities, of climate change. More than half of the population lives within a mile of the coast; most of the those who live inland are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. And they all live in one of the world’s most active hurricane basins.

From 2012-2018, USAID funded 12 initiatives to help the Government of Jamaica and its people build climate resilience, energy source diversity, and disaster risk reduction (DRR). A new report by the Adaptation, Thought Leadership and Assessments (ATLAS) project, Lessons Learned from USAID’s Climate Change Portfolio in Jamaica, outlines these initiatives, their impacts, and recommendations.

While the lessons learned and recommendations in this report were written specifically for the Jamaican context, they can be applied in settings around the world. The lessons learned themselves fit under two broad categories: approaches for successful implementation, and integrating successful approaches into cross-sectoral programming.

As the report points out, USAID/Jamaica’s climate programming used a successful “development-first” approach from the start, meaning that USAID focused on understanding Jamaica’s development goals, the inputs and conditions necessary to achieve them, and the stressors—climate and non-climate—that could impede progress toward those goals. Programs were implemented in close coordination with government entities and aligned with national policies and Jamaica’s Vision 2030 development strategy. It was also clearly apparent that participatory approaches, both at the community and national levels, together with extensive institutional and community capacity building, facilitates lasting impact.


The Ja REEACH II project is helping smallholder cassava farmers meet these private-sector demands. Charmaine Blair-Stewart already considered herself business savvy but decided to take part in a week-long Farming as a Business course held through a Ja REEACH II-led Farmer Field School.

Focusing on youth also led to successful implementation. By hosting three annual Youth Climate Change Conferences, conducting trainings, and holding a Climate Camp series, the Ja REEACH II Project alone engaged 2,821 youth in climate change awareness. USAID programming has also taken a holistic value chain approach to building resilience in the agriculture sector from drought forecasting services, to climate-smart agricultural practices, to improved access to finance and market linkages.

In the other category of lessons learned, the authors had future programming in mind. Fundamentally, they point out that scaling up best practices, employing robust and comprehensive community planning processes, identifying the right incentives to change behaviors, and building capacity among individuals and local institutions all takes time. Strengthening and maintaining relationships from one program to the next is critical to building the capacities needed to improve resilience over the long term. Likewise, strong partnerships may be the key to overcoming challenges in any national planning process. And better data collection and sharing is always helpful, from ministries to communities.

Future USAID activities, whether in Jamaica or elsewhere, can benefit from USAID/Jamaica’s experience. The report outlines seven specific recommendations based on review of the Mission’s 12 climate initiatives.

  • Enhance short- and long-term decision support for agriculture, water, and other sectors by developing targeted, actionable climate services for key users. Developing these services requires collaborative engagement among meteorologists, climate and sector experts, intermediaries such as NGOs or agricultural extension, and end users. Together, these stakeholders can determine what additional information end users need. At the local level, the focus on end users should be tailored to integrate gender and inequality and preferred communication channels, and to address barriers to accessing information.
  • Harness established forecasting capacity to inform an early warning and action response system in the agriculture sector. USAID, the Government of Jamaica, and other donors could support the development of an early warning and response system to trigger targeted measures that build resilience to a forecasted disaster before it strikes. While Jamaica already has a fairly well-established system for hurricanes, a gap remains in forecasting for drought, flooding, and pests and diseases. A proposed system would use climate and crop monitoring and modeling to track critical risks to agriculture and food security.
  • Support the Government of Jamaica to meet its national development goals and policies with an eye toward identifying long-term system shifts in the most vulnerable areas. Further investments are needed to increase government effectiveness in meeting the country’s stated goals for responding to a more variable climate. Explicit consideration of long-term risks and tipping points leading to system shifts such as arable to nonarable land in highly vulnerable regions and in regions cultivating climate-sensitive crops should be encouraged in government planning initiatives.
  • Integrate climate information into DRR work at national and local levels for rapid- and slow-onset disasters. Further incorporating climate projections about expected changes in disaster frequency, intensity, and duration will increase the efficacy of DRR and post-disaster recovery efforts in vulnerable urban areas.
  • Scale the approach of securing land tenure as a DRR strategy to increase investment in household- and community-level climate resilience and equitable disaster recovery efforts. Tenure insecurity can significantly inhibit household investment in DRR measures and limit access to aid distribution and post-disaster reconstruction programs. Disaster relief for resettlement and reconstruction, for example, often focuses on those with documented land ownership.
  • Support targeted interventions to help Jamaica meet its renewable energy generation commitments. Reliable and affordable access to clean energy both stimulates the economy and strengthens national security, in addition to its climate-related benefits.
  • Collaborate with the government, education institutions, and private sector and other regional cooperative entities to develop innovative approaches to addressing climate risk. Opportunities to expand on successful collaboration to develop innovative approaches, employ proven ones and build capacity include partnering with various government agencies, academia, the private sector, and regional entities.

Nearly a decade’s worth of activities has enhanced government, private sector, civil society, and community capacity to address Jamaica’s development challenges and capitalize on opportunities in light of a more variable climate. USAID investments have made vital contributions to the country’s ability to provide climate information services, climate-resilient and low emission policy and planning, on-the-ground risk reduction activities and clean energy development. Missions around the world can learn lessons from the efforts in this vulnerable island nation.

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Climate Change, Climate Policy, Climate Risk Management, Disaster Risk Management, Partnership, Resilience, Self-Reliance
Latin America & Caribbean

Christine Chumbler

Christine Chumbler is a communications professional with more than 20 years experience in writing, editing, and publications design. She has expertise in every stage of publication production, from concept and writing to editing, design, and printing. In the mid-1990s, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This experience led to a career using her writing and editorial skills with international development and foreign policy organizations, many of which worked to directly support USAID’s efforts. She has worked in a freelance capacity full-time since May 2016. Chumbler has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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