Jamaica

Jamaica The island of Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island. It is in a group of islands called the greater antilles. It has an area of 10 991 km squared or 4 244 sq. miles. Jamaica spans 230 km east to west and from 80-36 from north to south.

It is third only to Cuba, which is the largest, and Hispaniola which is the second largest island. Jamaica lies in the Caribbean sea which is a part of the much larger Atlantic ocean. The island is 960 km south of Florida, 160 km southwest of Haiti, and 140 km south of Cuba. Jamaica is mainly a mountainous island but there are 320 km of fine sandy beaches, swamps, moist fern- forests, sprawling open plains, plateaus, rushing rivers, and magnificent waterfalls. The Blue Mountains are the highest mountains in Jamaica and Blue Mountain Peak which is the highest peak in Jamaica rises to 2256 m or 7 402 feet. They are made up primarily of limestone. Farther to the west in the cockpit country the limestone has eroded over many years to form large depressions, narrow valleys, underground caverns and rivers. Most of the surface rivers are short, swift flowing and descend quickly to the coast and consist of a series of rapids and waterfalls.

The island is ringed by plains separated by mountain and sea. The country is divided into three counties. They are Cornwall to the west, Middlesex is central, and Surrey is to the east. Middlesex is the largest county. Jamaica is also divided into 14 parishes which are basically like provinces or states.

The parishes are Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. Ann, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St.

Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, and St. Catherine. Jamaica is mainly a tropical climate. During the course of the year, Jamaica has no real winter whatsoever. The average yearly temperature ranges from 27 degrees celsius to 32 degrees celsius. It is cooler in hills, around 20 to 25 degrees and it is known to dip below 10 degrees in the blue mountains. Although it is hot in the day, light ocean breezes result in making the island more comfortable in the day and cooler breezes blow down from the Blue Mountains at night.

Rain falls in Jamaica 12 months of the year because it is a rainy tropical climate. The average rainfall is 196 cm per annum. The main months for raining, however, are May to June and September to October. The major differences in elevation cause the rain to fall almost 600 cm per annum on the mountains and only 89 cm on the southeast coast. Hurricanes can strike anytime between June and October. One of the main hurricanes to hit Jamaica was hurricane Hugo in 1989 which badly damaged the country.

The vegetation in Jamaica is exceptionally varied. This is mainly because of the islands varied rainfall, soil, elevations, and climate. Many of the plants which now thrive in Jamaica’s rich soil have been introduced from other countries in colonial times. There are bamboo forests in the northern and northeastern areas. Also, rosewood, mahogany, ebony, and other species of wood which live throughout the island. Drought resistant plants live in the dry southeastern part of Jamaica.

Sections of the plateau are heavily forested savannas or grasslands. The majority of the palm trees are in the southwest part of the island. The countryside is often covered by rampant growths of poinsettia, hibiscus, poinciana, oleander, and bougainvillaea. There are many products which are grown in Jamaica. Some of the produce raised are bananas, sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, coconut, pimento, ackee, nutmeg, & breadfruit. Jamaica has many animals although it boasts only one native mammal, the coney, which is a wild rabbit.

The mongoose is large rodent originating from india. It was introduced to Jamaica in 1872 to control the problem of snakes and rats in the cane fields and has done an adequate job since then. Most of the snakes have disappeared from Jamaica except for a few non poisonous ones which look more like worms than snakes. In Jamaica, as well as many other caribbean islands there are an abundant population of small harmless lizards. There are over 200 species on the island.

Crocodiles are also numerous on the south coast swamp areas. In the past, Jamaica’s economy was generally based on agriculture. The dependency was on a few staple crops, primarily sugar and bananas. New economic development began with earnest in and around the 1950’s. Bauxite mining began in 1952 and the tourist boom around the 1950’s and 1960’s.

These factors lead to the rapid augmentation of mining and manufacturing industries. By 1959, the new industries exceeded agriculture in the Gross Domestic Product. In 1989, Jamaica’s GNP topped $2 361 000 000 U.S. Only 6% of that figure was agriculture, 41% was in industry and 53% was in services. The GNP growth in Jamaica is 2.3% each year.

When averaged, the GNP per capita is $939 dollars U.S. The country spends 2% of that for defence. For the year of 1989 the total bauxite production amounted to 2 535.7 tonnes resulting in $384.74 million U.S. dollars. Other earnings in this sector such as levies and royalties were US$198.96 million tourism is the second largest earner of money behind bauxite/alumina production. It grossed US$340.3 million.

The agricultural sector is Jamaica’s largest employer. There are many types of plants grown in Jamaica. The country has two types of industry. There are the large plantations for major export and the small domestic farms used mainly for individual and local use. Sugarcane and bananas are Jamaica’s major crops.

Combined, they account of Jamaica’s agricultural export earnings. The sugarcane is used for sugar, molasses, and Jamaican rum. Most of these plantations are situated in the southern coastal areas. The small domestic farms on the island are normally started on soil-rich hill sides. Crops which are grown include yams, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkins, peas, beans, and other vegetables.

Tree crops include things like breadfruits, mangoes, avocado pears, and ackees. It is said that some of the finest coffee beans in the world are from Jamaica’s blue mountains. Activities being encouraged by the government are fishing, and increased livestock production. The government funds programs in the instruction of modern agricultural techniques for farmers and propose a guaranteed markets in order to stimulate and improve production for both local consumption and export. Bauxite is the major mineral mined in Jamaica. The country is the world leader in bauxite production accounting for 20% of the world’s bauxite. It is also the world leader in alumina exports.

Nearly 1/4 of the earth in Jamaica contains bauxite. It is mined in the central and western parts of the plateau. Bauxite is used to make alumina which is then used to make the metal aluminum. The ore was mined since 1952. The main company in the mining of bauxite in Jamaica is a Canadian company called Alcan. The rest are other large American and Jamaican companies.

By 1972, there were five alumina plants and two bauxite drying plants on the island with combined capacities of 15 million tonnes of bauxite per year. Production levels are currently at 7 million tonnes per year because of changing trends in the international aluminum market. Programmes have been instituted to the increased development of Jamaica’s other natural resources, especially limestone which is abundant throughout the island. The vast reserves of limestone pose a great potential for foreign export. Deposits of marble, clay, gypsum, & silica are also found and mined. Since the 1950’s, manufacturing in Jamaica started with the establishment of the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation (JIDC). Implementation of manufacturing incentive laws also helped in speeding up the slow process. Jamaica now manufactures many products.

The goods manufactured are food and drinks, clothing, footwear, textiles, paints, building materials, agricultural machinery, and toilet articles. Most of the processing and manufacturing plants are located in the vicinity of Kingston and Spanish Town. Other products produced include sugar, molasses, rum, alumina, petroleum products, and cigarettes. Building materials including cement, concrete, pipes, bricks, building blocks, tiles, and gypsum are made from local raw materials. Goods such as metal products, industrial chemicals, paint, pharmaceuticals, records, plastic goods, paper bags, cardboard, tin cans, tires, razor blades, and electrical equipment are made from imported materials. In fact, most produced goods depend on foreign raw materials, machinery and technology for their production.

The population of Jamaica as of 1990 was 2 512 000. In 1989 the population was 2 458 000. This tells us that Jamaica’s population is increasing by 1.09% annually. (see next page for graph) Jamaica is overpopulated with a density of 224 persons/sq. km. It is estimated that Jamaica’s population will double in 64 years.

The life expectancy in Jamaica is 70 yrs for both males and females. The birth rate is 2.3/1000 and the death rate is 5.5/1000. The infant mortality rate is 20/1000. The rapid emigration of Jamaicans to England and North America in the 50’s and 60’s has helped to slow the population growth in the country. But, the emigration has slowed because of tight restrictions imposed by the British and United States governments. Many of them are now emigrating to Canada in hopes for a better life but many Jamaicans realize they would be better of back home.

58% of the population live in urban areas while the other 42% live in rural areas because there is a tendency to move to the cities in hopes of better job opportunities. 95% of the Jamaican population is of African descent. The rest are mostly East Indians, Syrians, Chinese, and Whites. In religion, 55% of the people are protestant, 20% are catholic, 25% are classified as other. These religions include rastafarianism, pocomania, muslim, and judaism.

Rastafarianism, which was started by one of Jamaica’s national heroes, Marcus Garvey, in the 1930’s is based on the beliefs and aspirations of Garvey. He was born on August 17th, 1887. He advocated the “back to Africa” movement and founded the United Negro Improvement Association. The rastafarians believe that Ras Tafari or later called Haile Selassie was the Messiah. They use the bible as a book of reference and smoke marijuana “The sacred herb”, or better known there as ganja for spiritual and ceremonial purposes.

Pocomania is basically a mixture of christianity and African roots. The ceremonies are performed by a congregation of people with white turbans around a white table decorated with candles, dirt, and fruits. Jamaica has one of the most interesting histories of all of the caribbean islands. It starts out in about 650 A.D when the first wave of Arawak Indians arrived over the sea from South America. The second wave arrived on the island between 850 and 900 A.D.

The Arawaks were a gentle agricultural based society. They first called Jamaica, Xamayca, meaning “land of wood and water”. The Arawaks grew potatoes, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. They viewed smoking as a religious rite and taught colonialists how to smoke. They were skilled artisans and stonemakers.

They travelled on the ocean in dugout canoes. They lived mainly around the coasts because it was the major source of food although they could be …

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