Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Drought-hit farmers fear the coming floods

Published:Wednesday | June 10, 2020 | 12:58 PMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
Small farmer Leroy Morrison surveying his vegetable farm after suffering losses estimated at $160,000.
Small farmer Leroy Morrison surveying his vegetable farm after suffering losses estimated at $160,000.

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 mix-vegetable 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.