Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says there may be a need to consider how weather information is packaged and presented so that it has more relevance and significance to the public at large.
The Agriculture Minister made the comment on Monday as he addressed the opening session of a two-day Caribbean Agro-Meteorological Initiative (CAMI) conference at the Knutsford Hotel in New Kingston.
He noted that while farmers rely on weather patterns and seasonal forecasting for planting, “it is unfortunate that it is not until there is the threat of a storm or some disaster that we take with much seriousness, weather-related information”.
He said that to better serve the farming community, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has acquired 16 weather stations, 13 of which have been erected in major agricultural production areas.
The weather stations provide relevant meteorological and agricultural information to enable farmers to more accurately plan and manage their farming operations.
“These measure rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity and dew point. They also generate a number of other data including evapotranspiration. The equipment is programmed to record measurement at 30-minute intervals each day. These are then downloaded to a computer for later analysis,” Minister Clarke said.
He added that RADA has been forging links to build its capacity to use this tool in its extension service and will receive assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for training and hardware under its climate change initiatives.
The Agriculture Minister stated the region will have to place greater emphasis on climate change and adaptation strategies if its agricultural industry is to remain sustainable and viable.
"Climate change poses many threats to agriculture, including the reduction of agricultural productivity, production stability, fish yields and incomes of the rural farm family that already have high levels of food insecurity and limited means of coping with adverse weather. Agriculture is where climate change, food security and poverty reduction intersect,” he said.
In the meantime, Minister for Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, noted that climate change “affects every sector, every country, every community, every neighbourhood and every life on this planet."
He congratulated the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology and the participating countries for working together in the best interests of regional agriculture and food security.
The conference, to be held under the theme: ‘Breaking New Ground in the Caribbean: Weather and Climate Serving Agriculture,’ will examine and highlight the statistical climate analyses, seasonal forecasting, crop water use and irrigation management among other issues.
CAMI is a three-year project, which began in 2009 and had, as its overarching goal, to increase and sustain agricultural productivity at the farm level in Caribbean countries through improved dissemination and application of weather and climate information. It is supported by 10 Caribbean States and received a grant of Euros
$1, 112,714 from the European Union through the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States’ (ACP) Science and Technology programme.