According to the Caribbean Regional Climate Centre, some countries in the Caribbean are more likely to experience drought conditions this dry season as a weak to moderate El Niño becomes more likely. The outlook until the end of March 2019 generated by the Centre has issued drought warnings for Barbados, The Cayman Islands and Suriname. While Antigua, northern Bahamas, southeastern Belize, much of Cuba, Dominica, northern & eastern Dominican Republic, northern French Guiana, much of Guyana, eastern Jamaica, Martinique, northwestern Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have been placed on drought watch.
With hotter and drier conditions on the cards, it is important farmers implement water conservation strategies on-farm to maintain production, as much of the Region’s agriculture is rain fed. Farmers must use water conservation strategies to carry them through the dry season. Some useful water smart strategies in crop production are drip irrigation, mulches, compost, cover crops, cultivating drought tolerant species and varieties and monitoring soil temperature and moisture so that watering can be optimised. For livestock, it is important that the animals have access to clean water and shade is provided in pastures. Forage conservation measures such as silage and hay will also guarantee animals have access to nutritious forage during the hot, dry days. Farmers can also implement rotational grazing on their pastures as it promotes regrowth and increases the fields’ water absorption and decreases water runoff.