By Orville Williams
While this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season has been relatively calm for Antigua and Barbuda, the Ministry of Agriculture is mindful of its responsibility to help farmers secure their operations against extreme weather activity.
Food production and food security are among the most important concerns for countries like the twin island nation, and these have been emphasised by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and the rising global inflation.
This means, therefore, protection for the farmers and their assets cannot be left to chance – an attitude Kenrick Francis of the Ministry’s Extension Division told Observer has been adopted for several years now.
“Every year, the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Extension Division, has a programme [where we utilise] the excavators [and] the backhoes to clean the ponds and clean the drains, especially in flood-prone areas. [This] helps the farmers with the [threat of flooding].
“We [also] go into the livestock areas, where the farmers have a lot of livestock, and we actually assist them in cleaning all those drains and waterways to alleviate these problems,” he explained.
The agriculture sector is currently experiencingshocks – some of which are mentioned above – that require urgent attention and solutions.
However, that has not taken attention away from hurricane preparedness, as Francis assured that work is already underway to mitigate the potential impacts.
“We have already started the programme since May and farmers are already taking their inventory, [doing] stocktaking. Those who are in lower-lying areas are actually moving to higher ground, and as I mentioned before, we’re already into the drain and pond cleaning, so things are happening,” Francis said.
The Extension Division is also continuing to work on an identification and registration system for the nation’s farmers, which should assist in keeping their information up to date and readily accessible in times of crisis.