By Orville Williams
Farmers across the island are now in recovery mode, following the heavy rains and flooding conditions that affected the island early last month. Even though some farmers got hit worse than others, there is a collective effort now underway to prepare for the upcoming crop season.
Senior Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Owolabi Elabanjo, explained that many farmers are currently attempting to offload produce planted prior to and harvested after the heavy rains, but a large majority are actually looking ahead to the next few months.
He said they are preparing land in the aftermath of the flooding to coincide with the production that will come in December to January [and] should be harvested from February or March.
“Some of the crops that were already in the ground before the rain came in, are what [the farmers] are picking right now. That is why you see a lot of butternut squash, watermelon and pumpkin in the market.
“But, between now and even after the [heavy] rains, a lot of farmers have gone back to the land trying to prepare [it], because that’s what most of them were supposed to be doing by now, to be planting onion [and] yam. Some of them might [also] be putting in some tomatoes [and] sweet pepper for the cooler months, going into March and April for harvesting.
“That’s what they should be doing and that’s why right now some people have planted their cassava, but the majority are still ploughing, trying to get some landscaping done for planting and production,” he said.
Elabanjo’s comments were likely targeted at those medium-to-large-scale farmers who provide food to a large consumer base. However, he has not forgotten the backyard farmers – who came to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic – and shared some guidance for them.
“The backyard is very simple. The advice we are giving the backyard [farmers] is – because of the small size and the small units of the backyard – first of all, see what they have [coming] from the rains. If it’s something that can be salvaged, clean everything up [and] prepare yourself for the coming cooler months.
“Get your seeds and other materials ready and get somebody to assist you in preparing [the] banks in your backyard. If [you are] using containers, get the soil in the containers prepared very well [and] arrange [the] containers.
“If you are using your backyard land, get it cleaned, get it prepared, put back the fencing – to protect your backyard from stray animals or even humans – so that you get your seedlings going. Most [people] should have their seedlings in the tray going by now, so between now and the end of December, a lot of them should be planting their crops, so that between December, January [and] February, they will be ready for harvesting going into March/April,” the agriculture official advised.