Trinidad’s Farmers Outpaced by Climate Change

Dalchan Singh, a root crop farmer and board member of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, says the past year has seen drastic changes in the weather of this twin-island Caribbean nation. Normally, the rainy season starts in June and continues during the months of July and August, he explained.

“But this year was not so,” Singh told IPS. “For two months, we had a lot of sun and very little rain. It is only about August that we started to get rain.” He added, “This year when you get rain, it is very powerful, and when you get sun, it is very dry, hot sun. This year is very different.”

Crops grow more slowly when they do not get enough rain at the correct time, he said. Conversely, the heavy, powerful showers the country experienced this year killed some of the crops such as the pigeon peas and caused some of the root crop to rot.

Local farmers say the unpredictability of the weather is making it almost impossible to determine what crops can safely be planted when.

Climate change is also creating an additional challenge in terms of the pests farmers have to deal with. Khemraj Singh, president of the Felicity Farmers Association in Chaguanas, Trinidad, explains that when there are two or three weeks of steady rain, any attempt to eradicate pests using chemicals is useless since the rain washes away the pesticides.

At the same time, said farmer Hudson Mahabir, “there are some positives to climate change” in controlling pests, since “heavy rainfall reduces thrips”, a winged insect that feeds on crops.

However, when there is a mix of heavy rainfall and hot sunshine, “it creates the ideal situation for fungus and bacteria to multiply,” he added.

Farmers throughout the Caribbean are seeing changes in seasonal weather patterns, which began to become apparent about eight years ago, and now find themselves battling more intense flooding, on the one hand, and dry hot weather, on the other.

Source: Jewel Fraser | IPS News

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