By Orville Williams
Amid efforts to improve the country’s water security, the Agriculture Ministry’s Extension Division is reminding that livestock farmers are similarly affected by the drought conditions that continue to plague their crop-focused colleagues and need support just the same.
“[All of] agriculture will be affected by water shortages, because animals have to drink water and crops need water as well.
“So, if you don’t have water around you, or you don’t have water from [the Antigua Public Utilities Authority] APUA, it is bad on you and you have to struggle to see where you can get water to [provide for] your animals. Likewise, for crop production,” Acting Chief Extension Officer Owolabi Elabanjo told Observer.
One could be forgiven for thinking livestock farmers have not been struggling with the issue of water shortages, given the emphasis that has been placed on boosting crop production, particularly over the past 18 months.
The impact of the pandemic on logistics and the global supply chain essentially forced the authorities here in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region to place greater focus on crop production as a means of improving food security.
In the subregion, where access to potable water has been a longstanding challenge, greater focus also had to be placed on improving water security, a vital component of crop production.
This does not mean livestock farmers had it easy, as some have been made to spend a lot on purchasing water for their animals and others have had to relocate their herds to areas where access to water is better.
In comparison, however, Elabanjo says they do have it a bit better than crop farmers when it comes to accessing water to sustain their operations, at least in the short term.
“Sometimes it’s easy for livestock farmers to take a drum or two in their truck to go and search for water…[then] go and feed the cattle or the sheep etc. And when you talk of livestock, I don’t want people to think it’s only sheep, goats and cattle, we’re talking of poultry production as well. You’re also talking of people who are doing things like rabbitry.
“Crop farmers cannot do that…with five or six acres, even one acre of land, it’s not so easy to do that. You have to have APUA water, or you have to have a pump to pump the water if you have a dam, so all your crops can get equal amounts of water for the production that you are doing.
“That is the difference and the hardest point for the discussion about crop and livestock farmers in terms of water usage.”
Several projects are currently underway to assist farmers across the island with their water woes and Elabanjo says, while crop farmers are worse affected, livestock farmers will definitely not be forgotten.
He noted that the entire agriculture sector functions via an ecosystem, where all aspects need to be properly tended to, in keeping things running smoothly and keeping the country sustained.