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Agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to the seasonal nature of drought

 

Photo credit: FAO

With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supplies will become increasingly important.

Caribbean region must prepare for increased drought due to climate change

Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries in the region must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other extreme weather-related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication, FAO stresses in a new report.

The Caribbean region faces significant challenges in terms of drought, the FAO report said. The region already experiences drought-like events every year,  with low water availability often impacting on agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires.

The region also experiences intense dry seasons particularly in years when El Niño climate events are present. The impacts of this are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, while one of them, Barbados is in the top 10. FAO defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security”, said Deep Ford, FAO Regional Coordinator in the Caribbean.

The impacts of drought on agriculture and food security

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region, agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences.

This is particularly important since most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region, countries’ fresh-water supply will become an increasingly important resource.

Drought can affect the agriculture sector in several ways, by reducing crop yields and productivity, and causing premature death of livestock and poultry. Even a dry spell of 7-10 days can result in a reduction of yields, and thus negatively affecting the livelihoods of farmers.

Small-scale, family farmers, are particularly vulnerable to drought – low rainfall threatens  rainfed crops  and  low water levels result in increased production costs due to increased irrigation.

Read the full article: FAO

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.