Climate Change: Endless drought puts the Caribbean at food risk

Climate Change: Endless drought puts the Caribbean at food risk

By Desmond Brown

But scientists are trying to cope by creating a variety of water-tolerant seeds, which they distribute to farmers in the hardest-hit countries.

"We are primarily affected by the drought," said Gregory Robin, Cardi's representative and technical coordinator for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Cardi, the acronym for the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, based in Trinidad and Tobago, “seeks sustainable management methods for production using varieties that tolerate dry conditions. We work with some basic products and do applied research to produce them in the dry season, ”Robin told IPS.

The organization, which has been working for more than 30 years to strengthen the agricultural sector of the member countries of the Caricom (Caribbean Community), is at the forefront of these investigations.

“We started first with the crops that were most significantly affected by the drought. We take, for example, taro, which requires a lot of humidity, and I dedicate myself to it in San Vicente and Santa Lucía ”, he explained. “The validation will serve Jamaica, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, all the islands that produce taro. Sometimes it is not profitable to do activities on all the islands, so sometimes the work with sweet potatoes that is done here is used in Saint Kits, Barbados and other islands with similar agro-ecological zones and rainfall patterns ”, he added.

"Cardi has a group of professionals in the region, so if we have any question of climate change and drought, the institute has a body of scientists that is available in all the Caricom islands," said Robin.

The crop to which special attention is paid is the sweet potato (sweet potato). Robin pointed out that this is very important and basic for food security and also as a source of foreign exchange.

“We work with crops that we believe will be most affected. Sweet potatoes can take a lot of water stress, but taro and others that require a lot of moisture are not going to take it as well, so we start with those that require a lot of water, ”he explained.

Noting that irrigation is key to productivity, the Cardi specialist explained: “I've been working here for seven years and it's the first time I've seen it so dry, underscoring the need to look at our systems to harvest water from rain ”, he specified. Climate change also forced Guyana, considered the breadbasket of the Caribbean, to develop new varieties. “We also plant different varieties of crops resistant to salt water because one of the impacts of climate change is that it invades the land, so we look for salt resistant rice, for example. We are also looking for crops that are much more resistant to a dry climate and that can tolerate periods of flooding, ”Agriculture Minister Leslie Ramsammy told IPS.

"We have done things like drip irrigation, used technology and methods, as well as animals and crops that are much more resistant to extreme weather conditions," he said.

Besides creating drought-tolerant varieties, Cardi also develops new technologies to help farmers with irrigation. "I remember when I started in agriculture probably 20 years ago, growers used to irrigate with drums and buckets," Bradbury Browne told IPS.

But he said that over the years, Cardi introduced drip irrigation technology and other types of methods.

"For example, if I want to apply 3,000 gallons of water to an acre of sweet potato I can program (the irrigation system) so that I don't have to be physically present to turn on the tap and there will be no flooding problems if they call me for an emergency," I explain Browne, who now works as a field technician at Cardi.

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda lawmaker Baldwin Spencer said frequent and extreme droughts are expected to become a feature of the Caribbean climate.

He also said that the impact of dry conditions will increase heat stress, particularly for the most vulnerable population, such as the elderly.

“Despite the decline in the production and export of important basic products of the OECS agricultural sector, agriculture continues to be an important sector in the social and economic development of the region from the point of view of food security, stability rural areas and contributions to other productive sectors, ”said Spencer, who was Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda between March 2004 and June 12 of this year. "These benefits are at risk from climatic events, which increase as the climate continues to change," he stressed.

Specialists project that the decrease in the production of important crops, combined with the increase in the demand for food, poses great risks in all aspects of food security in the world and in the region, including access to food, utilization and price stability.

The World Bank noted that food security is consistently seen as one of the key challenges for decades to come and that by 2050 the world will need to produce enough food to meet the demand of more than 2 billion people - more than 7.2 billion. From now.

He also said that most of the population growth will be concentrated in developing countries, which will increase the pressures on their development needs. The World Bank added that to meet food demands, agricultural production will need to increase between 50 and 70 percent, according to different estimates. And this will happen as the impact of climate change is projected to intensify, particularly hitting the poorest and most vulnerable countries.


Video: How to ensure Food Security in times of Climate Change (September 2021).