Thursday, August 27, 2015

Raising Awareness About the Agricultural Impact of Climate Change in the Dominican Republic

By Dr. Gary Linn, F2F Volunteer

In the Dominican Republic, one of the most productive agricultural areas is the Yaque del Norte river basin. Over the past decade, hurricanes, floods, mini-tornadoes, strong winds, and now, a strong drought have impacted banana and other agricultural production in the area. These farm communities are very vulnerable to the impact of global climate change (GCC). Irrigation canals that were once full are now depleted, crops are stressed by extreme heat, and soils are becoming degraded. Long-time agricultural practices are becoming ineffective and the usually plentiful fruit, vegetable, and rice production of the region is dropping. For the present, and possibly for future decades, farmers in the Yaque del Norte river basin (and other agricultural areas of the Dominican Republic) must rapidly adopt new climate smart agricultural practices and technologies that mitigate the effects of climate change and help them adapt their farming to the extreme weather conditions. However, awareness of the widespread effects of GCC and measures that can be taken by farmers to effectively deal with it are low. Unless agricultural producers/ decision-makers comprehend the scope and threat of climate change in their area, they are unlikely to adopt climate smart farming practices and technologies that will make them and their rural communities more resilient.

To raise awareness of GCC among producers, community leaders, and members of communities in the Yaque del Norte river basin, this assignment included four multi-hour workshops in Monte Criste, Mao, and Jarabacoa from July 12-25th. Contacts on the subject of GCC were also made with farm managers, elected officials, directors and professors of technical schools and universities, agricultural business leaders and administrators of producers associations. The workshops were attended by 456 participants, each of whom received a diploma-sized Certificate of Participation from Farmer-to-Farmer. In the communities, contacts were made with another 501 individuals. Workshop participants included agricultural producers, farm managers, agribusiness leaders, directors, professors and students of technical schools and universities, civil defense officials, and agricultural technicians. The workshops were hosted by an agribusiness, Banelino, two banana producers associations, Grupo Banamiel and Associacion de Pequenos Productores de Santa Cruz, a government project, Proyecto La Cruz de Manzanillo, a technical college, Escuela Medioambiente and a university, The Technical University of Santiago – Mao Campus (UTESA).

Discussions with workshop participants following the PowerPoint presentation on GCC and its impact on the Yaque del Norte watershed showed increased understanding of GCC and its human causes (emissions) and international, national, and regional impacts on agriculture, rural communities, and individuals. Further, at each workshop there were many requests from producers and other participants for expert assistance with the future adoption of new agricultural practices and technologies that would help them mitigate the negative effect of GCC and better adapt their farms and communities to changing climatic conditions. Although targeted education on GCC in the Rio Yaque del Norte watershed should be a continuing process, several key recommendations were made for the people, groups, and organizations that we assisted; New agricultural practices/technologies which will help mitigate the effects of GCC and help adapt regional agriculture to climate change must be disseminated and adopted by producers; Prior to the visits of the Farmer to Farmer experts, producers who are likely to adopt recommended climate smart practices/technologies and lead other producers to do the same should be selected for participation in the workshops/trainings; Following the workshops and trainings, the participants should discuss the positive and negative characteristics of the proposed climate smart agricultural practices; Prospective adopters of the climate smart agricultural technologies and practices should receive a cost analysis of the recommended practices; Producers adopting the recommended climate smart agricultural practices should follow up with the agricultural experts via email and Skype; One year following the workshops/training on climate smart agricultural practices, producers who participated should be surveyed with regard to their adoption of the recommended practices.

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