In the coming weeks, Barbadians may find themselves having to pay a lot more for local vegetables. This is because the area that grows a large majority of these crops, has been experiencing serious water woes in recent months.
Farmers at the Spring Hall Land Lease Project in St Lucy are growing increasingly worried as critically low water levels in the wells that feed the irrigation system, are threatening their yield and would inevitably result in the scarcity of certain crops on the market.
As if this was not bad enough, farmers told Barbados TODAY that they are being threatened with eviction by the Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation (BADMC), as several of them, have been unable to pay their bills due to low production, which they claim is as a result of the long-term water issues.
This morning farmers met with Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul and President of the Barbados Vendors’ Association (BARVEN) Allister Alexander, to formulate an urgent plan of action for the way forward.
Following the meeting, they explained that the situation has gotten so dire that the farms are being rationed three hours of water per day, a significantly inadequate supply for large farms in drought conditions. Additionally, for the next four days, the BADMC has opted to shut off the water supply in a bid to replenish the wells, a move that farmers see as the death knell of their business.
“This is death for us because we have plants that if they don’t get water in a day they will die, it is as simple as that. For example, we have cucumbers that are being scorched, I see a lot of farmers have already lost sweet peppers because the bottom has literally dried up,” said a frustrated Winston Alexander who has been part of the project for several years.
Fellow farmer Hamilton Corbin made it clear that barring some unexpected rainfall or some form of support from Government, many of the farmers may not be able to recover from the impacts of the ongoing water shortage.
“At the moment we are losing crops and I believe that by the time that this is all over most of us are going to be in a ditch that we can’t come out of. Right now, we cannot meet the requirements in this dry weather. One of the pumps has broken down and they are going to shut off the other,” said Corbin.
He added, “prices for local vegetables are going to end up being very high because when a product is available all is well but when the scarcity is on it is going to be a problem for the country. People like us have been contributing to the food security of this country, but we are being mistreated in a big way.”
Also weighing in on the issue, Paul told Barbados TODAY that the BAS along with BARVEN will be making official representation to the BADMC, on behalf of the farmers.
“The situation is really bad. Right now, the farmers are getting water three hours per day and they are working in strict rotation system. It is very difficult for farmers to be getting water three hours per day. Right now, they have sweet peppers, onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and a whole range of crops up here needing the water. They account for a significant amount of the vegetables produced in this country. As the weeks go on without any relief, the prices are going to go up for local vegetables,” he said.
He further noted, “these are people that help to feed Barbados and believe me when I say that there will be a serious dent in crops such as cucumbers, watermelons and sweet peppers, if we have a situation where that water is cut off and the farmers are not able to supply their crops.”
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to contact officials at the BADMC and Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir but those efforts were unsuccessful.
However, Paul contends that with the hardships that the farmers are going through, it was unconscionable to demand, under the threat of eviction, that all arrears be settled.
“This morning is the first time that I learned about this threat of eviction. I believe that we need to sit down with people and discuss the issues as to why a bill goes up. I am sure that if the farmers have the money to pay the bills, they would pay them,” stressed Paul.
He pointed out: “There must be some reason why these things happen, and we must try to fix them. It makes no sense because you might threaten these farmers with eviction and you might bring new farmers, but unless you solve the underlying problem, we are going to have a repeat of the issues in a short space of time. So, these types of threats don’t solve anything.” firstname.lastname@example.org