Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Press Release, October 2017
On 18 September, 2017 Dominica took a direct hit from category 5 Hurricane Maria. Its devastating winds, heavy rains and storm surges caused widespread damage across the island with total destruction reported in some communities. Homes, commercial buildings, roads, communications infrastructure and agriculture were all severely damaged and in many cases, completely obliterated.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) who is leading CARICOM’s response has reported that agriculture on the island is 100% destroyed. In their assessment CDEMA reported severe damage to farm housing, irrigation, infrastructure, feeder roads, forest reserves, coastal fisheries and widespread loss of poultry.
CARDI a strategic partner in the development of Dominica’s agriculture sector has begun on the ground assessment activities. CARDI Representative in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Agronomist Gregory Linton is leading this process. He will soon be joined by Animal Scientist and CARDI Representative in Barbados, Mr Ansari Hosein.
CARDI has started mobilising resources across the Member States to immediately respond following initial relief efforts which are currently focused on providing food, shelter and health care to the affected population. It is important that the agriculture sector gets a head start as it is vital to livelihood of at least 25% of the population. Moreover by restoring agricultural productivity on the island, livelihoods will be sustained and the dependency on food aid in the less affected communities will be reduced.
CARDI’s response will be twofold. In the short term, the Institute will work with stakeholders on the ground to kick-start the production of commercially important commodities while our long term response will be focused on building a resilient agriculture sector through the promotion and adoption of climate smart practices and technologies.
Short and medium term responses
- Supply seeds for a variety of commercially important food crops such as beans, corn, squash and peas to farmers across the island. These will be sourced from the CARDI seed banks in Belize and Antigua and Barbuda.
- Commission the Plant and Tissue Culture Laboratories in the Member States to produce tissue culture material for a range of root crops including yam, cassava, sweet potato, dasheen and bananas.
- Construct hardening facilities to receive and harden plantlets before distribution to farmers.
Long term responses
- CARDI will work to boost its regional store of seeds of commercial varieties and local landraces and expand its germplasm collections for roots and tubers and pasture grasses.
- Launch a regional programme to expand the acreage under roots and tuber cultivation on CARDI Field Stations. Due to their resilience and ability to survive most natural disasters roots and tubers can assist in improving household food and nutrition security post disaster.
- Work with the UWI faculty of Engineering to design and build highly portable nursery and seedling hardening structures that can be quickly deployed to assist the restart of agriculture post disaster.
- Integrate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and satellite imagery to assist in assessing and responding to disasters.
- Develop Disaster Rick Management Strategies for all CARDI countries focused on the agriculture sector
- Promote and adopt Climate Smart Practices in the agriculture sector across the Region
- Design storage facilities to secure key staple foods and agricultural inputs in at risk locations. CARDI and other national stakeholders will manage this facility and distribute food to the affected population in times of crisis.