Drought-hit farm­ers fear the com­ing floods

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ruddy Mathi­son/Gleaner Writer

A NUM­BER of small farm­ers in Glen­goffe, St Cather­ine, who have ex­pe­ri­enced losses in crops amount­ing to hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars due to the ef­fects of the pre­vail­ing drought con­di­tions, are now faced with the pos­si­bil­ity of an­other nat­u­ral disas­ter that could fur­ther threaten their liveli­hood.

The 2020 hur­ri­cane sea­son, if weather fore­cast­ers are cor­rect, is ex­pected to be more ac­tive this year than pre­vi­ous years. As a re­sult, some farm­ers in this ru­ral farm­ing com­mu­nity are fear­ful that if the fore­casts come true and there are con­tin­u­ous rain­fall, their farms could be wiped out.

Leroy Mor­ri­son, a small mixveg­etable farmer who also grows other crops, told The Gleaner that as a re­sult of the pre­vail­ing drought, he has lost more than $160,000 so far in as­sorted veg­eta­bles and other cash crops.

“De­spite the drought, I was not do­ing too badly be­cause I was get­ting wa­ter from the pipe to wa­ter the plants, but we started to face wa­ter cri­sis and I had to trans­fer some of the plants fur­ther down the hill near a lit­tle stream where I could get some wa­ter,” Mor­ri­son said.

“Be­fore this hap­pened, how­ever, I lost more than 50 pounds of cau­li­flower and about the same amount of broc­coli.”

HARDLY GET HELP

Mor­ri­son, who is a regis­tered mem­ber of the Ru­ral Agri­cul­tural Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (RADA), said the area ex­pe­ri­enced some rain­fall a cou­ple weeks ago, af­ter which the sun came out and scorched a patch of the cau­li­flower and broc­coli be­fore he could reap them.

“I am regis­tered with RADA, but I hardly get any help from them. About six weeks ago, I got half a bag of fer­tiliser and that’s all. I asked them for some or­ange suck­ers so that I can go into or­ange farm­ing, and un­til now I don’t hear a word from them,” he dis­closed.

Mor­ri­son said if this year’s hur­ri­cane sea­son is ac­tive, then he has rea­sons to be con­cerned.

“I have other crops like co­conuts and cane and I will lose them if the breeze come. I am not too wor­ried about the land­slide that could de­stroy the rest of veg­eta­bles be­cause I am plant­ing pineap­ple and straw­berry to stop the soil from mov­ing, but even with this I know I will lose some of the veg­etable crops if we get heavy rains,” he stated.

Bertham Reid, who cul­ti­vates crops like co­coa, ba­nana, yam and mix veg­eta­bles, said his es­ti­mated loss is about $150,000.

“The drought has been dev­as­tat­ing. It has burned most of my veg­eta­bles, mainly the sweet pep­pers and toma­toes. There is no way I can make up for this loss,” he said.

Reid, who is also a mem­ber of RADA, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion, in his view, is not ac­tive in the area and the only help he got weeks ago was half a bag of fer­tiliser.

He re­vealed that the wa­ter sys­tem in Glen­goffe has to be up­graded to de­liver to both farm­ers and house­hold­ers. He said he has lin­ger­ing con­cerns about the hur­ri­cane sea­son be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine how ac­tive it will be be­cause of cli­mate change.

Head­man Gayle, an­other small farmer in the area, who is also regis­tered with RADA, and spe­cialises in the cultivatio­n of ginger, along with yel­low yam and cane, said he has lost thou­sands of dol­lars worth of pro­duce due to the drought. How­ever, he was not able to put a dol­lar value on his losses.

Like his fel­low farm­ers, he is also wor­ried that he could be fur­ther wiped out if there is an ac­tive hur­ri­cane sea­son this year.

Leroy Mor­ri­son show­ing cau­li­flower that has been scorched by the heat from the sun.

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