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Experts gather to combat dry season woes

Gerard Tamar - Manager of Meteorology at the Grenada Airports Authority

The temperature we expect (is) to be just above normal… the Earth is still warm.

Those were the words of Manager of Meteorology at the Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) Gerard Tamar during last Thursday’s Ministry of Agriculture press conference held at the Ministerial Complex at the Eric Gairy Botanical Gardens.

Speaking on the island’s high temperatures, Tamar said that low rainfall is expected during this time of year.

“During this period of the year, which is our cool months, our winter months, our dry months, we experience low rainfall. This is the time of the year we are most susceptible to having drought…,” he said.

Tamar noted that although the environment may feel hotter, the temperature is not as high in comparison to the summer months.

“Our temperature is normally much lower than August/ September because we are still in the winter months. It is the time when we experience higher winds. The reason for this is because the Atlantic High System… was high as we call it. The air comes across drier,” he told participants.

According to the top local meteorologist, the weather conditions are now ideal for many outdoor activities.

“It is good for recreation, Sailing time. There is sailing in regattas and so on occurring in many parts of the region (at) this time. There is an economic benefit to this time of the year,” he remarked.

Tamar reported that 2024 started on a good note when it came to rainfall on the island.

Despite the decrease in rainfall during the month of February, the meteorologist stated that the following months will be “average” when it comes to rainfall.

“January, we had good rainfall. Actually, we had more than average rainfall in January. February was not so good…February is really dry. For the next two months we can expect, our prediction is that we will return back up to just around what is called average rate for this period,” he said.

In his address, the meteorology head at MBIA stressed that his concerns are now mainly with the temperatures during the night.

“The nighttime temperature is the most worrying…But the problem comes for us humans at night time, because we have seen over the last couple of years, the earth is not cooling as much in the night as it used (to be) before.”

“The nighttime temperature is becoming increasingly higher and that many times is the cause, a lot of medical issues that the medical people can attest to.”

Tamar called upon stakeholders to take a proactive approach when it comes to dealing with the high weather temperatures on the island.

He stated that Grenada is under a “drought watch” and drought conditions will occur if the weather pattern does not change.

“This trend is expected to continue. As citizens of various sectors, we have to do what we have to do to mitigate against this eventuality. It also becomes an economic issue because now in the various sectors all have to know their thresholds of what is acceptable for them, what they can put up with. Otherwise, you will have to take some sort of measurements to combat all these temperatures.”

The GAA met office manager announced that advisories from the Meteorology office will be released when the Sahara dust severely impacts the Grenada climate.

This will be done, he said so that persons with respiratory issues can take the necessary precautions.

“As we see, in previous years this is almost coming now like a year-round activity,” he added.

Acting Chief Extension Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture Lauren St. Louis revealed that due to the high temperatures, certain crops were severely impacted and that animals throughout the state were also affected by the heightened weather conditions.

“It really affected the production of agricultural products, especially in terms of vegetables because most of our vegetable production is rain fed… We had quite a long period of time where we basically could not find any vegetables. The vegetables just could not survive under these hot conditions…,” she said.

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“Livestock was also affected. We also have to think about making sure that we have areas that are protected for our livestock,” she added.

St. Louis expressed the view that animal owners need to have designated areas where their animals can be fed constantly.

“We are really trying to promote the use of pastures and planting pastures, not just going out, as we say to tie out your goat. In some way, but actually establishing pastures so that you can know where your feed is going to come from because you can’t always just rely on the fact that your neighbour isn’t going to use their area or they’re not going to… You have to start thinking about establishing areas where your animals can be fed all the time.” she said.

St Louis encouraged farmers to develop other practices to ensure that plants are able to withstand the increasing hot temperatures.

“In the production of vegetables and in tree crumbs and so, one of the main things that we can do is to mulch. Not mulch with a plastic mulch or some other inorganic matter, but a mulch with dry grass.

“That will give the soil a chance to keep the area cool. It keeps the water from evaporating as quickly from the soil and so it ensures that the moisture is still available for your vegetables and for your tree crops.

“…We have other things such as rain water harvesting – you can have water and store it. You have the use of drip irrigation…Your drip irrigation will ensure that the water is available just for the plant and only in the area around the plants that you’re not losing water.”

Speaking on the fires around the island, Fire Department Inspector within the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), Thaddeus Hamilton described the dry season as the “most active” season for the department in any given year due to the amount of fires that often take place.

Insp Hamilton appealed to persons to ensure that the right channels are used when it comes to preventing and starting fires.

“The department’s resources are stretched to the fullest extreme. The fires were caused through negligence, through human interaction with the environment by carelessly disposing of cigarette butts, setting fires without the proper authority, setting fires without the proper control,” he said.

The fire officer announced that a collaboration will occur between the RGPF and the Ministry of Agriculture “to ensure that we have a reduction in the amount of bushfires” in the upcoming months.

Addressing how farmers can gain support during the dry season, Land Use Officer Joseph Noel declared that the Ministry of Agriculture is “building resilience to climate change and its impacts.”

Highlighting the Challenge Fund for Agriculture initiative under the climate resilient water sector in Grenada project, Noel told the gathering that 260 farmers have applied to get help in many areas related to the dry season.

He noted that despite the delay, farmers can expect to receive the assistance during the dry season.

“Under the Challenge fund for Agriculture Initiative, assistance is being provided to farmers in the areas of rain water harvesting, water efficient irrigation, the drip irrigation or micro sprinkler irrigation and also in the area of shed houses.

He recalled that applications for funding by some farmers date back to 2022, and into the early part of 2023.

“I know many of those farmers, many of you are anxiously awaiting for the equipment and materials to reach you,” he said.

“We’ve had some setbacks with regards to the procurement processes and so on, but we have overcome a lot of those challenges and we are looking to move full speed ahead with our procurement and with getting the equipment and materials,” he added.

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