Tobago farmers relieved, nervous amid heavy rain

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Goldsborough Farmers Association head Roland Murray –

AFTER months of drought that negatively affected crop production, Tobago farmers are relieved but nervous as heavy rain drenched the island for approximately four hours on June 10.

The Met Office has forecast more rain for the rest of the week.

The rainy season officially started on May 25, with farmers desperate for a brutal dry season, which saw water restrictions in place, to end.

Head of the Goldsborough Farmers Association, Roland Murray, said he doesn’t know what to expect now that the heavens have opened.

“You have to determine when you want to water your crops. You can’t wait on rain, because sometimes you might have excessive rain which could damage your crops.

“Then you would have dry spell for another two weeks, so the plants come from the watering era into this stressful dry period.”

Murray said there hasn’t been enough rain to have any huge impact as yet.

“We’re hoping that we don’t get too much rain at any one time. We hoping that we get the rain off and on, because too much rain now will put us in a bad position again, because you’re coming from a severe dry season into a wet, wet season which wouldn’t agree with the plants at all.”

He added: “Right now I have down an acre of melon, and it now start to run, but if I get too much rain, I could lose it.”

He said he has received a lot of calls from farmers who are telling him  the ground is still hard.

“Up to this morning, I was talking to a farmer who said the ground was still hard, so the water really hasn’t gone anywhere as yet.”

He described the recent drought as “a terrible time” for farmers.

“The dry season was really severe this time around and farmers are really facing a terrible time. Even the plants, you’re seeing the stress on the plants itself.

“Farmers were affected badly, the production level cut a lot, only farmers who have access to the river in close proximity (thrived), and that is only 15 per cent. Other than that the rest of farmers suffered tremendously.”

Head of the Argyle United Farmers Development Group Ramish Radgman said he grows pawpaw, noting that there are a lot more farmers in the area. The amount of rainfall, he said, is a cause for concern.

“The drainage system in Argyle is in the worst state that you could ever think about. The rains is making farming worse because the drainage system is deplorable.

“You have no proper drainage system, no proper roads – as a matter of fact, you can’t even go on to the lands as the rains is falling because the roadway is immersed in water. There is no proper run-off system, it is only dirt – no proper drainage.”

He does not see food security and food sustainability for the island in the near future.

“All of that is just old talk and mamaguy. If the powers that be is really serious, the people that really want to do serious farming, they would get behind them and let us try to provide food for the people of Tobago and by extension Trinidad and the world, because I am seeing more talk than action.”

He described the recent dry season as very bad.

“I don’t think there was ever a time worse.

“In an effort for plants to grow, you need a certain amount of water. You don’t have to wet the plants by drowning the plants in water, but you need to give it enough water so that it can dehydrate itself. We did not have any water at all and added to that, the sun was intense, so just imagine.”

Plymouth farmer Olive James said she is thankful for the rain.

“It is helping, as I have a lot more water tanks which also collect the rainwater.”But not everybody is fortunate to get more water tanks. Everybody does not have the financial resource to invest in more tanks.”

She said during the drought, a new WASA booster helped supply water but the consistency was a major issue.

“You go to bed in the night and maybe at sometimes at 1am or 2am, you hear the water in the line so of course you have to get up, and when watering the plants the water just goes – you would swear someone switched off the pipe.

“It has been terrible to the point where I couldn’t even grow lettuce.”

She said if food security is the goal, then a consistent water supply is needed.

“We cannot continue like this – if we are talking food security, we need a more consistent flow of water, as that is the first ingredient and the last ingredient as it relates to farming. Or even better yet, the Ministry of Agriculture could donate some 1,000-gallon tanks to the farmers on the island. Something needs to be done.”