The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that it has mobilized its Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities – Agricultural Inputs Response Capacity (SFERA-AIRC) with a contribution of 300,000 USD by the Belgian government to support efforts to repair damage caused by Hurricane Irma to agriculture and fishing sectors in the Caribbean.
According to the statement, this is the first donation the FAO has received in efforts to raise seven million USD which will go toward helping recover productive ecosystems in agriculture, livestock, and fishing sectors, through effective soil and water management initiatives.
The text also noted that a technical official from FAO’s sub-regional office will visit Havana in the coming days, in order to facilitate this process.
Regarding Cuba, one of the countries worst affected by the storm, the statement notes that “among immediate actions in response to damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the Cuban archipelago, as well as part of the United Nations System of comprehensive action in the field of food and nutritional security, the FAO intends to help stimulate food production by providing supplies and equipment to repair roofs and coverings on egg, pork and short cycle production units.
“It will also supply equipment, components and replacement parts for irrigation systems, fertilizers and herbicides, chainsaws, and safety gear in order to clean up and provide access to productive units and crops as quickly as possible, as well as supplies to repair fishing boats and gear,” reads the statement.
The FAO’s main aim, according to the document, is to provide producers with the means on which they depend to sustain their families, and revive food production in communities affected by the hurricane, in order to guarantee food supplies to the local population and other provinces around the country, including the capital.
“If Irma has taught us anything,” stated Theodor Friedrich, FAO representative in Cuba speaking to Granma “it’s that it’s time to act on what is known as ‘adaptation to climate change.’
“Irma was one of the strongest hurricanes in history, leaving destruction and despair in its wake. This is the second category 5 storm to visit the country in less than one year, after the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in the east of Cuba; and was accompanied by other strong hurricanes in the region, like Harvey and José. As such, no one can deny that climate change is real, as we continue to see increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events. Not too long ago, everyone in Cuba was concerned about the drought that had kept the country in suspense over recent years, now the same areas are struggling with floods and landslides,” explained Friedrich.
We need to accept that these events represent a threat to us, and that we must prepare ourselves to face this new reality, he noted.
One of the main challenges and questions arising from these events, he explained, is how we can protect our crops, the basis of our food and survival on this planet.
Although it will be difficult to ensure that crops are capable of withstanding category five hurricane force winds, damage to vegetation, specifically short cycle crops, can be cultivated in a shorter period of time, while perennial varieties, like coffee, cacao, and coconut, require a little longer, he noted.
“The most difficult and expensive thing, although not impossible to fix, is damage to agriculture’s primary capital: the soil.”
In this sense he highlighted joint efforts by the FAO and Cuba’s ministries of Agriculture and Food and Fishing industries, in a plan to implement conservation agriculture, also known as climate-smart agriculture: an approach for developing agricultural strategies to secure sustainable food security under climate change.
“Such a system isn’t an unattainable dream, it’s a reality in many parts of the world and something that Cuba could very well achieve,” he noted.
After Irma, the lesson should now be to make the most of this wake-up call by increasing efforts to implement Conservation Agriculture in the country.