Canal on Sugar Plantation

Date: 1890-1925
Owner: Library of Congress
Source Type: Images


Sugar, as did most large scale crop production, required constant and steady watering. In Jamaica, agriculturalists experimented with different types of irrigation systems in an effort to improve yields and to geographically expand the acreage capable of sustaining sugar production. Irrigation techniques included digging trenches from rivers, lakes, or other water bodies, to potentially producing fields. Water was then distributed either by hand dug trenches or to manmade reservoirs to be held for future use. These techniques exponentially increased production of sugar, tobacco, bananas, and other exportable crops. But the canals were typically straight and narrow, and the velocity of water movement increased without the natural curves to slow it down. Moreover, water often evaporated in the heat of the Caribbean summers. Irrigation reduced water sources and natural aquifers exponentially, negatively effecting communities dependent on them. Finally, large-scale, monocrop production made possible by irrigation increased soil erosion and exhaustion, and lack of diversity weakened crops and increased incidents of disease, lowering the overall yields.

CITATION: Jamaica, irrigation canal on sugar plantation.  Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection. Copyright Publishers Photo Service, NYC. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-95074.