The ongoing drought holds ominous portent for not only households but our farming community.
Frankly, things are brown.
Food comes first, as the champion of homegrown food Senator Carmeta Fraser reminded us decades ago, as she advocated for growing our ability to feed ourselves, a task that must not be left in the hands of others beyond our shores.
Indeed, our crippling $700 million food import bill forces us to contemplate our food security particularly when our farmers issue dire warnings as they did on Monday.
Farmers across the island say their crops are drying up and challenges to our way of life loom ahead.
Winston Alexander told Barbados TODAY: “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.
Another farmer, Hamilton Corbin, warned: “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.”
This is an annual problem and one likely to worsen as the impact of climate change continues to hit home.
Their desperate cries have highlighted the need for authorities to speed up efforts to build a smart agriculture sector that is resilient to climate change.
Given the fact that forecasts for a changing climate will bring more erratic rainfall, extreme temperatures, drought, soil erosion and even pests, players in our farms have little choice but to look ahead to avert a potential crisis.
Admittedly, agriculture in Barbados has been relegated to the background, but we have more than enough evidence that it has a big potential to be a major sector in a stable society… allowing the population to have ready access to homegrown healthy foods.
It, therefore, means that old practices not yielding the best outcome must go.
Therefore, the conversation has to change from defeat to the options to keep agriculture thriving.
This conversation will entail more than farmers talking among themselves. They must readily embrace the contribution of climate scientists, government officials and others to help mitigate the impact of potential crisis.
Climate-smart agriculture includes techniques such as agroforestry, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated crop-livestock management and improved water management.
To his credit, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir has already outlined a vision for farming, which he says, entails providing more training for farmers.
He declared: “We are going to introduce best practices and the Government is going to take full responsibility for research and development so that when you look to rotation of crops, we are eliminating crop diseases, we are mitigating against future potential diseases and expanding yield. That is the responsibility of a Government.”
He also appealed to the private sector to take charge and help agriculture play a lead role in the rebuilding of the Barbados economy.
We aver this a worthwhile venture.
But to weather the current challenges, farmers need financial support.
Private interests, including banks and credit unions, can help to fund projects that will help create more opportunities in areas such irrigation, tractors, and greenhouses to boost production for the domestic market and possibly export.
Now is as good as any time to start. Our lives could depend on it, especially now that things are brown.
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