2019 saw dozens of farmers impacted by the drought that occurred. Crops were destroyed and millions in revenues were lost. The Government stepped in and according to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Godwin Hulse, over one million dollars were distributed to farmers and agro producers. Hulse spoke to Love News earlier and noted that the monies to assist the sugarcane farmers have still not been received for distribution. With the exception of that snag, Hulse says the Government is seeking additional funds to address this year’s drought that has been forecast.
Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture: “We gave out some four hundred and sixty thousand dollars to cattle farmers. The figure I was given was 1,323 farmers were assisted, these were farmers with cattle herds from two hundred down to just a few heads and so that commitment was fulfilled. We did the same with the vegetables and other farmers they were six hundred thousand in assistance. We were short on the cane farmers because the funds is coming from CDB and there’s been a bit of a challenge to get funds as you know these agencies don’t just hand out the money. It is now I’m understanding that the board has approved so that money should be available shortly so that’s another two million dollars. But on top of that the Prime Minister has committed as part of the World Bank financing that we’ve been taking under the CCRIF program to allocate some twelve million dollars as an emergency relief and again that is actually part of support to farmers who are currently losing product and who are unable to sell product because of course the demand is not there. So that twelve million dollars should be available, unfortunately some of these things work at snail’s pace and it should be available by the end of May hopefully. But then again the larger picture for the drought was our approach to the World Bank for a twenty five million dollar loan which we understand is very well advanced and that is to provide the mitigation efforts long term for farms where they would be able to harvest water and that sort of thing for their cattle, for the other animals pigs, chickens etc and also for vegetables and that sort of thing and it’s a very comprehensive program. It’s a longer program but we’ve been working on that very diligently and it’s fairly well advanced. That is a combination of loan and grants to farmers to begin to stem this problem. One of the things that we’re looking at is that the aquifers are not producing the amount of water, the rivers don’t have as much water as they used to so we’re looking basically at catchment. You will recall that after the last drought there was a good hard set of rains but that water just went off into the sea it is that sort of thing being able to build catchment basins to hold that water, putting shade planting cover so that farmers will have water for the animals when we run into this kind of drought again but it is here and it is coming and I hope we would get some rains but yes we will have some funds again to help to support them through this period.”
One of the suggestions that came up during last year’s drought discussions was the installation of irrigation systems for farmers. Minister Hulse explained that this is still in the pipeline as water storage is key in mitigating the impacts of drought.
Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture: “Irrigation is a number of things. It’s a combination of as I said water harvesting, pumping from streams, digging wells etc. The package that they’re talking about the World Bank incorporates all of that and there’s a very detailed study that has been undertaken of the northern districts it’s done by Lidar to actually see where the areas are where the water is how you could get it to the areas it’s not just a simple thing of giving a farmer some money so he could dig a well, it’s a little more complex than that but it’s an ongoing system. There are a couple of irrigation systems in the country some of the larger farmers do have irrigation systems but as I said the whole twenty five million dollar package from the World Bank is to do just that. Different farmers will have different systems to facilitate their need that’s the sort of thing. It’s not everybody who will be able to pump from the river or pump from the stream or dig a well, majority will have catchments and that sort of thing so that is really where we’re going with that.”