MINISTER for Agriculture, Ezechiel Joseph, has indicated that the government, farmers and fisher-folk need to return to the drawing board to construct a new plan for local agriculture to adapt to climate change.
Joseph spoke in light of the recent natural disasters that have rendered a number of islands nearly inhabitable, including the last two Category Five hurricanes — Irma, which destroyed 95% of Barbuda and caused chaos in neighbouring islands, and Maria, which almost wiped out Dominica, destroying up to 90% of the island’s infrastructure.
The Minister highlighted the impact that such a threat would have on the local agricultural sector and what should be done in anticipation of such an event.
Joseph said: “We need to know what we are doing. We need to bring into focus resilient agriculture. We need to bring into focus new approaches that will enable our fisher-folk to sustain the reality of climate change because the reality is that climate change is here to stay.”
With the hurricane season due to end on November 30, Joseph warned that there is still time for Mother Nature to pass her wrath on St. Lucia. For this season and future seasons, he said, there is a dire need for a new agricultural plan.
He said: “We will be experiencing, over the period of the next few years, more negative impacts of climate change and we cannot continue to develop our agriculture — be it fisheries or land-based agriculture — in a manner that we don’t take into consideration the impact of climate change.”
Joseph continued: “I remember (the Prime Minister), after our experience last year with Tropical Storm Matthew, saying to me that whilst it was an opportunity for us to rebuild, we should be rebuilding our agriculture keeping in mind the reality of climate change. So we have to build a more resilient type of agriculture.”
Joseph pledged to do all he can in his ministerial capacity to support his counterpart ministers. However, he said he would be mindful of St. Lucia’s current status and looks to prepare the island’s agriculture to allow those in the sector to bounce back in the event of a high-scale natural disaster.
Joseph, along with other OECS Ministers of Fisheries, met last week Thursday to discuss the way forward on climate change and agriculture.