Wed | Dec 8, 2021

St Bess farmers hard hit by drought

Published:Saturday | July 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A dejected Clive Edwards shows The Gleaner news team his tomato field that he abandoned because of the drought and his inability to purchase water at the going costs. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Richard Gayle pours a generous helping of water on melons in a field cultivated by Clive Ebanks at Flagaman, St Elizabeth yesterday in a fervent effort to save the crop as farmers in the parish grapple with a crippling drought, the impact of which has been made worse by strong, dry winds they claim have been drying out their fields faster than usual. For this reason they have to be watering the crops at shorter intervals, using more water which has had less than the desired effect but a significant increase in input costs. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
1
2

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

FARMER CLIVE Ebanks is hopeful that by spending an estimated $400,000 more on purchasing the precious fluid and paying labourers to keep his melon plot at Flagaman, St Elizabeth, well watered, he might be fortunate enough to at least break even on the investment.

Richard Gayle and Robert Campbell were out in the field watering and Ebanks turned up with another van load of water just when The Gleaner stopped by mid-morning on Thursday.

"The water drying up faster. As fast as you put the water it dry out and it is very expensive," he said, having to date spent at least twice the amount of money on water over last year. "Right now me kinda fed up still because of the drought," 21-year-old Oraine Davidson of Ballards Valley shared. "The time is really dry and the breeze is blowing really hard. If the rain fall now and the breeze blow, it not going to take long to dry out the dirt, so it's really rough, really rough," the St Elizabeth Technical High School graduate who has been farming for the past five years disclosed.

Hottest year in history

Cultivating under drought conditions is nothing new for farmers in the island's bread basket; but with 2014 projected to be the hottest year in history, they're struggling to cope, and the combination of heat and wind is resulting in withered plants.

With water scarce and costly, the farmers are caught in a dire situation, having already spent considerably on seeds, chemicals, fertilizer and labour to put in the crops. Now they must decide whether to commit more money in a half chance at breaking even on their investments or cutting their losses, by abandoning the crops in the field.

"You work fi profit but if you even spend some more and get back you investment and nuh make nuh profit, if you get back you expenses you can go back," Ebanks explained, stubbornly clinging to hopes of getting back at least some of his money.

He continued: "We wet it every day. You use the truck, we invest a whole lot to reach here so already, so might as well we put on some more (money) so you can get back some."

Davidson's sweet pepper and cabbage plots were in excellent condition but only because he has a truck and is able to pay $500 for 500 gallons of water in Cheapside, for which he would have to pay $3,000 if it were delivered to the farm.

CAPTIONS - (1) A dejected Clive Edwards shows The Gleaner news team his tomato field that he abandoned because of the drought and his inability to purchase water at the going costs. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

(2) Richard Gayle pours a generous helping of water on melons in a field
cultivated by Clive Ebanks at Flagaman, St Elizabeth yesterday in a
fervent effort to save the crop as farmers in the parish grapple with a
crippling drought, the impact of which has been made worse by strong,
dry winds they claim have been drying out their fields faster than
usual. For this reason they have to be watering the crops at shorter
intervals, using more water which has had less than the desired effect
but a significant increase in input costs. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer