Soil and water management is a priority area for CARDI Antigua and Barbuda. The island is one of the driest in the Caribbean, and with climate change, conditions are expected to worsen. According to Meteorologist, Dale Destin, “2021 was a near record breaking year with only 600.7 mm (23.65 inches) of rainfall recorded for Antigua. This was the lowest on record behind 2015 with 574.5 mm (22.62 inches). The rainfall deficit amounts to a whopping 556.00 mm (21.89 inches) or 48% of the usual year total.” Water is a critical resource for agricultural production, and plays an important role in food security.
In Antigua and Barbuda, CARDI leads the promotion and demonstration of improved water management technologies, to sustain agricultural production, and improve productivity. At the institute’s field station in Betty’s Hope, a variety of mulching options – plastic, organic and biodegradable are demonstrated to stakeholders. Throughout the year these are highly effective in conserving valuable soil moisture and suppressing weeds, says CARDI Representative Paul Lucas.
In country, the Institute is the go to resource, for installing and training farmers in drip irrigation, and fertigation systems. In 2021 the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) collaborated with CARDI, and the Ministry of Agriculture, to support 55 small farmers in rural communities boost local production, through improved irrigation technologies and planting materials. One recipient of a fully automated irrigation system from this initiative, Lescharles Joseph commented that, “With the installation of the irrigation system on farm, I can now improve the amount and quality of food I produce, as without water farming is nothing.”
In addition, several other low technology solutions to sustainably manage water are demonstrated to farmers to assist them in improving yields. These include use of shade houses, humidity bins, wick systems, retrofitted tables for seedling management, rain water harvesting, subsurface irrigation and cisterns. As a research station, work is ongoing to make drought tolerant varieties available to farmers. Currently farmers can access, planting materials for several forage grasses and seeds for hot pepper, corn, pumpkin, table squash and eggplant from the Institute’s seed bank.