I know this is a bit old but it is still interesting.

Impact of Climate Change on Caribbean Agriculture
CARDI calls for research targeted at areas under threat
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Given the region's increased vulnerability to natural disasters due to the effects of climate change, and the threat this places on agricultural production and food security, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agriculture and Research Development Institute (CARDI), Dr. Wendel Parham, is calling for an action plan to protect Caribbean food systems, with research targeted at the areas under threat.

The research, he says, must identify the likely climate change scenarios and the production areas to be prioritized. Careful consideration should be given to the development of high temperature resistant and high temperature preference varieties; gene banks to preserve diversity; seed banks to restart agricultural production after disasters; and how to increase shelf life.

Attention should also be focused on projects to encourage more processing and packaging of foods to enhance attractiveness over imported varieties; research to control invasive species and new pest and diseases; soil and water management studies; and investments and research into environmental crop production. He also points to the need to scale up forecasts of future rainfall patterns.

Dr. Parham informs JIS News, that CARDI is currently involved in a project, which looks at global environmental change and its effect on food security. This, he says, is an international programme out of the United Kingdom.

"Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti are the three countries in this hemisphere that are being reviewed to look at the impacts of global environmental change on the agriculture and food sectors, what the potential impacts are, and if interventions were to be done, what would be the outcome of those interventions," he says.

Dr. Parham further informs of another project to secure planting reserves in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes. He notes that the project has been designed and funding is being sought. "So, if a hurricane was to hit lets say Grenada as has happened, we would have reserves in Belize, or if it hits Jamaica we would have reserves in Guyana to try to secure the region's food security, so we would have planting material (and) seeds in warehouse (and) we would have planting material in the ground. We would have those that even after a storm, you can retrieve," he says.

Climate change or global warming, refers to the change in weather patterns due to the build up of man-made gases in the atmosphere, which trap the sun's heat. The effects include changes in rainfall patterns, rise in sea level, potential droughts, habitat loss, and heat stress.

According to Dr. Parham, there are four major effects likely to occur as a result of climate change in the region. He identifies these as warmer temperatures which are already being observed; more natural disasters such as hurricanes, which are formed when sea temperature rise above a certain level; change in rainfall patterns and coastal erosion.

"As warmer temperatures are raising sea temperatures, we would expect longer hurricane seasons with storms more numerous and more severe. This is what appears to be happening at the moment, even if it is not yet scientifically proven," he says.

He also explains that coastal erosion is occurring as sea levels rise due to melting polar ice field, and that hurricanes are causing storm surges, which are damaging coastal infrastructure.

Dr. Parham further notes, that the effects of warmer temperatures result in loss of species diversity as those which cannot adapt die out, and a the loss of advantage for growing warm weather crops.

"The Caribbean is proud of the fact that many food crops produced here cannot be produced in more temperate regions. This situation may alter as summers warm up and frost-free winters become more widespread," he points out.

One of the effects of climate change, is an increase in natural disasters such as flooding and hurricanes, and the Caribbean has experienced a number of disasters in recent times, which have caused millions of damage to agriculture, seriously threatening food security.

With three months left till the end of the hurricane season, the region has already been impacted by Dennis and Emily, which caused an estimated $200 million in agricultural loss and damage in Jamaica alone. Coffee and bananas were among the industries that suffered the most damage.

Dr. Parham notes that these losses are likely to continue if more is not done to identify climate change and what needs to be done to mitigate and lessen the effects. He points out however, that climate change will not only affect agriculture, but also tourism, on which countries in the region are heavily dependent.

"The Caribbean boasts of relaxing vacations in the sun, sea and sand. Coastal erosion will reduce the amount of sand and high temperatures will make more strenuous activities uncomfortable," he explains.

He further points out that as a result of warmer temperatures, more energy will be needed for air conditioning and refrigeration, as well as an increase in new pest and diseases as these tend to thrive at high temperatures.

"The public needs to be told that the climate is changing, why it is changing and what needs to be done to mitigate and lessen the effects. The public should also be fully informed about what effects climate change could have on tourist earnings," he says.

He notes that apart from the damage that hurricanes may cause to hotel infrastructure, tourists may elect to skip the Caribbean if they are likely to experience a hurricane. "With the hurricane season getting longer and storms getting more frequent, many tourists may elect to go somewhere perceived to be safer," he says.

As for the effects of warmer seas, Dr. Parham says, this will have negative effects on food harvested from the sea, as fish may not adapt to the new conditions leading to migration or population reduction. Coral reefs, he notes, which are attractive to tourists, are already under severe pressure as a result of rising sea temperatures.

The effects of possible changes in rainfall patterns will also impact agricultural and tourism potential. "If the climate gets drier in some areas, this will obviously affect crop production. Increased irrigation can mitigate against this, but water for irrigation is already scarce and will become even less available if rainfall decreases," he says.

If the climate becomes wetter however, more flooding can be expected as well as hillside erosion in areas where natural forest cover has been removed for agriculture or other development.


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