Above: a cane field in Barbados
With the hurricane season officially under way in June, Barbados’ Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management is working to ensure the island’s food and fisheries infrastructure are secure in the event of a natural disaster.
The Ministry is advising farmers in ways to safeguard their livestock and helping the fishing community prepare to haul in vessels to safe areas prior to the impact of a major disaster or weather system.
The Agriculture Ministry is also cooperating with local merchants to ensure there is an adequate supply of food in the island at any given time for distribution in the event of a major disaster.
“Through education, we show and teach the farmers how to mitigate the potential impact of droughts and floods,” said Chief Agricultural Officer Barton Clarke. “In the case of droughts, how to harvest water, how to utilise drip irrigation systems as opposed to sprinkler systems to limit the amount of water you have to use, how to schedule your crops so you can avoid to the best extent possible the harsh times, how to access and utilise varieties of crops which are more tolerant to drought and so on.”
Barbados’ Disaster Rehabilitation Fund, a low interest $25,000 loan which farmers and fisherfolk registered with the Ministry of Agriculture can access, is available in the event of these emergencies.
According to Clarke, the passage of Tropical Storm Tomas left many farmers “out of pocket” last October, significantly affecting the poultry industry, which lost some 90,000 birds, and the pig industry which lost some 400 pigs, at an estimated value of $4.75 million.
Tomas was a harsh lesson for agricultural officials, who are now encouraging farmers to further strengthen their infrastructure to avoid these kinds of casualties.
–Barbados Government Information Service