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Bridgetown—During recent missions to St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) operations in the Caribbean formally signed livelihood rehabilitation and resilience building assistance totalling US$630,000. The assistance, given in response to requests from the governments of the two countries, will facilitate recovery efforts in the aftermath of severe weather brought on by a low-pressure trough which passed through the region in December.
From December 23 to 25, torrential rains and high winds generated by the trough greatly affected St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines and led to overflowing rivers and flash flooding which caused widespread infrastructure damage. The agriculture sector—including livestock, root and vegetable crops, fisheries and forestry—was hardest hit, with many small-scale farmers completely losing their livelihoods.
In speaking about the assistance, subregional co-ordinator for FAO in the Caribbean, Dr JR Deep Ford, lauded the national emergency response efforts in each country, indicating that their groundwork had enabled FAO’s ability to rapidly deploy. He also spoke about the interventions having been carefully designed to ensure that farmers would not only recover but would be given a developmental boost for their enterprises.
The assistance will be delivered in two ways. Firstly it will enable the prompt resumption of agricultural production through emergency provision of inputs, such as seeds, planting material, fertilizer and baby chicks to affected farmers.
Additionally, given the frequency of adverse climate impacts on the region, an FAO expert will also carry out an evaluation of Disaster Risk Management (DRM) systems and propose ways to build resilience in vulnerable populations by strengthening the capacities of institutions and civil society organisations. Beneficiaries will also be taught disaster risk reduction agriculture practices to ensure that what is being restored will be less affected by future climate impacts.
St Vincent and the Grenadines was most severely hit by December’s weather. Widespread flooding and landslides led to the tragic loss of life and millions of dollars in damage to the island’s infrastructure. The country’s agriculture sector will receive US$320,000 to quickly rehabilitate the livelihoods of affected vulnerable farmers that would otherwise face food security and livelihood issues. This effort will complement and supplement on-going national efforts.
In co-ordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry Fisheries and Rural Transformation, assistance will be provided for the rehabilitation of agricultural fields and forests, cleaning of waterways, stabilising riverbanks and building resilience in the communities impacted by floods, strong winds and landslide. FAO will provide support to the almost 1,000 affected farmers including 350 small-scale crop farmers, 350 poultry farmers and 100 pig farmers.
They will receive agriculture inputs including baby chicks, seedlings planting material and fertilizer. Support will also be provided to the restoration of the sole poultry hatchery in the country which has been closed since the disaster, as well to the aquaculture sector.
In St Lucia, preliminary assessment of damages to the agricultural sector has shown a significant impact on bananas/plantains and vegetables, root and tree crops and livestock production. Drainage and irrigation systems were damaged as well as farm roads and riverbanks.
FAO’s US$310,000 in aid will be distributed in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries, Cooperatives and Rural Development. It will allow both government-owned forest areas and farmers’ fields will be cleared and cleaned, and windbreak trees will be planted where necessary.
400 vulnerable farmers will receive agricultural inputs (seeds, planting materials, fertilizers and tools) to support their production capacity; 30 affected poultry farmers will receive baby chicks which will be sourced from local hatcheries and 40 aquaculture producers will receive 400 000 fish fingerlings (shrimp and tilapia) which will be sourced from local production over a phased period of two months.