After monster Hurricane Irma annihilated the farm sector of Barbuda in 2017, growers got smart: among other changes, they moved their crops to higher ground.
There and elsewhere across the Caribbean, as tourism-dependent island nations cope with record-breaking storms and rising sea levels blamed on global warming, the region is devising savvy ways to diversify islands’ economies and boost food security.
Another taste of pain came this month as Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the northern Bahamas.
Indeed, the Caribbean and its 44 million people could be facing their biggest crisis to date as extreme weather delivers a double whammy to tourism and the region’s ability to feed itself.
“Climate change has affected everything. How we eat, how we build, how we live our day-to-day lives,” said Kendra Beazer of the Barbuda Council, which runs the internal affairs of the island, part of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Category 5 storm in September 2017 was the worst ever recorded in Barbuda, crippling its infrastructure and damaging 90 percent of its buildings. Today, some islanders still live in tents.
Besides moving crops to higher ground to escape storm surges, planters have switched to hardier root vegetables and fruits that are resilient to unpredictable rainfall.
Smart greenhouses that are powered by clean energy and grow produce in a self-regulating, controlled micro-climate — rather than at the mercy of nature’s whims — are also among methods tipped to boost food security, said Beazer.
“Climate change is having a major impact on the region, and we can expect to be impacted more frequently by high intensity storms,” Justin Ram,director of economics at the Caribbean Development Bank said.
“Having the ability to adapt to it and build resilient economies is where we need to focus. To do that, we will have to use more digital mechanisms,” he added.