Caribbean Farmers Looking for Relief from Prolonged Drought

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cattle refugeCastries – St. Lucian farmer Anthony Herman was hoping that next year he’d manage to recoup some of the losses he sustained after 70 per cent of his cashew crop withered and died in the heat of the scorching southern Caribbean sun.

But on June 1, the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season which coincides with the rainy season, the 63-year-old man, who has been farming for four decades, received “frightening” news about weather conditions in the region over the next year or so.

The 2015 wet season in the Caribbean, which runs from June to November, has been forecast to be drier than normal and a similar prediction has been issued for the 2016 dry season. This follows on a drier than normal dry season in 2015.

“It is frightening,” Herman tells IPS on the sidelines of the Regional Climate Outlook forum for the 2015 hurricane season being held here June 1-2.

Herman, who is board secretary and project coordinator at the Bellevue Farmers Cooperative in Choiseul, in southwestern St. Lucia, says he will summon directors to devise a response plan.

“When we hear of the threat of drought that’s going to be lengthened this year and going into next year, this to me, is frightening,” Herman tells IPS.

“Frightening in the sense that I don’t think that we, as a government, we as a people have created the resilience that is necessary to combat drought. The water infrastructure that is necessary is not available, or where it is available, it is in patches,” he says.

At the two-day forum, organized by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), climatologist C├Ędric Van Meerbeeck puts the forecast into perspective by referencing 2009, a year when extreme dry conditions triggered widespread water rationing across the region.

Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Guyana recorded their lowest six-month rainfall totals (October 2009 to March 2010).

“It doesn’t mean it is going to be the same like 2009 and 2010, but if it is going to be a year, it is going to be this year,” Van Meerbeeck said of the forecast dry spell.

“Temperatures are going to feel hotter than usual and that is pretty much throughout the Caribbean,” Van Meerbeeck told the gathering of meteorologists, natural disaster managers and other stakeholders from 25 Caribbean countries and territories.

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