Bridgetown, Barbados: Dominica’s food production requires immediate restoration as a result of widespread devastation to agriculture and fisheries caused by Hurricane Maria last month.
The country suffered the most damage from the powerful hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean, which decimated its agricultural and fisheries sectors. The storm brought strong winds and torrential rains that caused swollen rivers, flash floods and landslides, severely damaging farm housing, irrigation infrastructure, feeder roads, crop and livestock production, forest reserves, fishing boats and other equipment. The destruction directly impacted income, food and nutrition security for most of the island’s residents.
In conjunction with recovery efforts by Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI); FAO will provide short-term varieties of vegetable seeds, as well as fertilizers and hand tools to help residents grow crops in the interim while long term restoration of agriculture and fisheries is underway.
In addition to providing immediate assistance, FAO in coordination with the Ministry has identified key priority areas for the long term recovery of the agricultural sector including crop, livestock, fishery and forestry.
“Road and farm land clearance remain imperative to enable many farmers in the country to resume their agricultural production. Debris of any kind – mainly coming from the damaged forest – (i.e. heavy tree trunks and branches) are piled up across the country blocking rural roads and impeding farmers to plant their new crops. Rehabilitation of animal sheds is also a priority together with provision of water tanks and small irrigation equipment,” said Daniele Barelli, FAO Subregional Office for the Caribbean (SLC) Emergency Focal Point and Disaster Risk Management Specialist.
Through recovery efforts, more than 10,000 seedlings of vegetable crops have been secured in addition to 150,000 seedlings of citrus that will be distributed to farmers in the next coming weeks. Although this quantity of this planting material is not enough, it is expected to be increased through the activation of the emergency funds secured by FAO. Livestock, fisheries and forestry will be also supported with various rapid interventions such distribution of fencing material, animal feed, and cooling equipment (i.e. refrigerator and ice making machines) in addition to the rehabilitation of nurseries.
While FAO and its partners focus on restoring destroyed crops, livestock and fisheries, it is important to note that tuber crops such as yam, dasheen, sweet potatoes have proven to be resilient following the hurricane and are being harvested by some farmers in Dominica.
“Tubers are the only crops who have resisted quite well to the impact of the hurricane. Some export of dasheens is also ongoing allowing some farmers to generate some quick cash revenue,” explains Daniele Barelli.
Following these initial post-hurricane recovery efforts, the FAO SLC will continue to assist Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to mobilize resources and provide technical assistance to support efforts to rehabilitate its food production and achieve adequate levels of food and nutritional security through the creation of a longer term agricultural risk reduction and resilience recovery plan.
“FAO is committed to working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Dominca, as well as the other development partners to restore the livelihoods of the farmers, fisherfolk and foresters and to build back the agriculture sector of the country so that it is more resilient to future shocks,” said Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Caribbean.
Financial support has already been received from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in the amount of $300K USD, as well as $100K USD from the Department for International Development (DFID)for the rehabilitation of the crop and livestock production for ensuring food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable population through distribution of agricultural inputs, hand tools, fencing and wiring material as well as animal feed and restocking of poultry. FAO also secured $100K USD in Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) that will enable part of the fisherfolk population to resume their fishery activities and guarantee the conservation and storage of the fish capture through distribution of fishing gears, cooling equipment (i.e. refrigerators and ice making machines) as well as material to repair damaged boats.