Friday, June 13, 2014

Solutions to Flooding for Banana and Rice Producers in the Dominican Republic

F2F volunteer, Paul Wojtkowski, at a meeting with
banana producers in northern Dominican Republic
Paul Wojtkowski visits banana plantations at
Banelino, a banana producers' association
At the end of May, Partners of the Americas' Farmer-to-Farmer Program sent its first volunteer under the 2013-2018 Dominican Republic (DR) strategy that focuses on increasing the resilience of vulnerable populations to the effects of climate change. From May 28 to June 14, F2F volunteer Paul Wojtkowski agreed to serve as a climate change expert and to assess how climate change may impact the DR's banana and rice industries. During this assignment, Paul has conducted lectures and presentations on what is climate change, the potential impact of climate change on water availability and production, and measures banana and rice producers can take to best adapt to climate change both on the farm and at the community level. Paul is also working with producers and associations to find solutions to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change on the banana and rice sectors in the DR. Below is his report from the field during the first half of his assignment:

“It is not uncommon in Farmer-to-Farmer assignments to attend various functions. During the first day in the countryside, there was a reception for the opening a new building for an association of smallholder producers. Farmer-to-Farmer was mentioned in the opening remarks. At the beginning of the second week, there was a day-long event at a local college. Again, Farmer-to-Farmer was cited in the opening remarks. Between these formal events, [my official assignment] was to introduce banana farmers to the dangers of climate change. The hope was to offer solutions.

Upon visiting a number of farms, it was noted that the grass vetiver, often used for erosion control, might be a useful addition to banana plantations. Flooding is a frequent occurrence, often with damaging effects. The severe flooding associated with hurricanes destroys banana crops.

Vetiver, a perennial grass that may be used to
prevent erosion during flooding
Vetiver is a very deep rooted plant and is reported to be symbiotic with bananas. This suggests that vetiver could anchor the crop during periods of flooding. There might also be additional benefits, as vetiver could offer better year-round soil-moisture management and could help control nematodes, which farmers stated are a constant problem.

Many of the farmers expressed interest in the vetiver solution and, since the plant can be found locally, there are few obstacles to its use. Clearly, a large project to test the effects will soon be underway. This assignment has already been successful. Hopefully, the upcoming week will produce equally good results.”

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