Regional body launches climate change project

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The European Union has given a grant of 8.6 million euros to support a regional project to improve Caribbean food security in the context of climate change.

The project, which was being introduced and coordinated in a two-day session in Trinidad, is being conducted in four countries in the region: Belize, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. The project is being organised by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

The crops that are being planted will be, in Barbados, sweet potato and yam; in Belize, corn and beans; in St Kitts and Nevis, sweet potatoes, beans, peas and pigeon peas; and in Trinidad and Tobago, sweet potatoes and corn.

The project is aimed at producing plant materials that are resilient to extreme climate and which must be put in the hands of the farmers and ensure that consumers have access to these nutrition rich foods.

Deputy permanent secretary in the ministry of food production, Stephanie Elder-Alexander, who represented the ministry at the session, said climate change has become the overriding environmental issue of our time.

“The earth is rapidly becoming warmer, known as global warming, due to the increased burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and poor agricultural practices. Real global temperatures are expected to increase by .7 to 2 degrees Celsius by the 2060s and 1.1 to 4.3 degrees Celsius by the 2090s with an expected reduction locally in real annual rainfall. Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the wider region, is not immune to these developments,” she explained.

Elder-Alexander noted that, as a small island developing state, Trinidad and Tobago was particularly vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change including the increased demand for irrigation water, proliferation of new and existing pests and diseases, decreased crop yields due to intolerance of crop varieties to new climate conditions for sea level rise, desalination of soils, increased flooding, and increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

She added that the effects of climate change will also have negative consequences for the marine fisheries sector with increased fish metabolism, depleted oxygen in water, shift in habitat range, introduction of non-indigenous and in exotic species, increase in disease and toxin and acidification being some of the likely outcomes.

The success of this project, Elder-Alexander said, will result in the establishment of national gene banks in participating countries and a regional in vitro laboratory in Barbados.

She also advised participants that the ministry intends to implement incentive policies to encourage better water and flood management programs thereby mitigating flood impact and soil loss reduction.

The ministry will also encourage improved research particularly in the area biotechnology aimed at mitigating reduced levels of food production as a result of climate change.