Reducing weather impacts: Modernising climate adaptation in the Caribbean

New climate-smart tools and structures are expected to increase crop production and diversity in the Caribbean, leading to a more sustainable regional food supply and greater food security.

Climate-smart greenhouse technology in the Caribbean is helping farmers to protect their crops during extreme weather events and times of scarcity © Horizons WWP/TRVL/Alamy Stock Photo

To reduce the impacts of climate-related weather events and sea level rise, Caribbean farmers have been provided with access to climate-smart technology and technical assistance. Through a USAID-funded Rallying the Region to Action on Climate Change (RRACC) project, in Antigua, greenhouses equipped with rainwater infrastructure have been installed whilst, in Barbuda, a water catchment area and a storage drip irrigation system have been constructed.

“Hydroponic greenhouse technology was one example of the climate-smart approaches that Antigua and Barbuda embraced,” says Linda Taglialatela, US Ambassador in Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. As part of the RRACC project, which started in 2011, local community partners, farmers, and other stakeholders were also able to learn first-hand the necessary steps to reduce crop losses and improve water usage in extremely dry conditions. “Together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, we trained over 100 farmers in greenhouse farming and organic methods of increasing yields and reducing pests,” states Taglialatela.

The development of drainage systems and seawall improvements by the RRACC project has also enhanced communities’ resilience in Dominica to climate events, including the tropical storm Erika, which hit in 2017. “During the storm, these measures effectively diverted floodwater away from the [Meru] community and dramatically reduced the scale of flooding,” says Taglialatela. A model farm has also been constructed in Londonderry, Dominica, to demonstrate innovative renewable energy and water conservation methods to farmers to increase food and energy resources during times of scarcity.

The first climate-smart greenhouse in the Caribbean, which integrates agriculture and technology, is under development in Saint Lucia. Having won the 2017 Idea Stage of Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurship Programme, creators Keigan Mayers and Jade Hutchinson received a €42,700 grant from UNDP-Global Environmental Finance, and a partnership with the Saint Lucia Coalition of Service Industries to bring their project to life. The greenhouse farm management system prototype will be launched in September 2018, providing farmers with a controlled micro-environment where they can manipulate temperature, humidity, sunlight and other atmospheric conditions. Automated data collection via sensors will also allow the entrepreneurs to develop a database of information on the greenhouses, and the farm management system will analyse this data in order to provide recommendations to farmers on how to achieve optimal crop yields.

“Tropical climates experience high temperatures during the day and do not sufficiently cool at night, providing less than optimal growing conditions. We have overcome this by including sealable vents for natural ventilation during the day, and air-conditioning at night to reduce ambient temperatures inside the greenhouse,” says Hutchinson. “We also want to improve climate-resilient agriculture by building greenhouses that can withstand hurricanes, thus helping farmers to protect crops and reduce losses. Our approach was to design an easily deconstructable greenhouse which will allow the farmer to re-commence crop production and bounce back quickly,” he explains.

As part of the project, the team is also creating a curriculum which will become a National Vocational Qualification for climate-smart agriculture, eventually leading to a Caribbean certification. They hope to encourage more young people in Saint Lucia to choose agriculture as a career by incorporating technological advances to make it more attractive and less laborious.

Natalie Dookie

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.