Image: Department of Emergency Management

With seven hurricanes being predicated for this year’s season, local farmers and fisher folk are being urged to put things in place to adequately handle any adverse weather conditions, which may threaten their livelihood.

This plea comes from senior officials of the Agriculture Ministry, who have cautioned Barbadians to heed any advisories given throughout this particular period.??

Chief Agricultural Officer, Barton Clarke, explained that the Ministry had a number of contingency plans in place to assist farmers and the farming community, before, and during the hurricane season.

"Prior to the hurricane season, one of the things that the Ministry does every year is to circulate notice to the farmers to put things in place, to ensure that they are ready for any impending hurricane," Mr. Clarke stated.

For example, he said that if farms were in low lying areas, an evacuation site on higher ground needed to be identified well in advance.

"You have to choose the best location for sheltering your animals if evacuation is not feasible. You should have a clear identification of the animals, and the decision to keep animals in the barn or in the pens or in an open field, is entirely up to the farmer, but if you decide to keep them in the barn, you must ensure that it is strong enough to hold them," he cautioned.

Noting that it was imperative that items be removed from the aisles and the walls of the barn so that they would not become missiles and maim or kill any of the animals, the Chief Agricultural Officer added that it was also of equal importance that animals be properly identified.

"In case any of the animals get loose during the course of the hurricanes they should be permanently identified so that they could be relocated afterwards… keep a well-stocked livestock first aid kit in case you have to tend to the animals; store enough feed and water for about a week and persons should remember to store it [the feed] about two feet off the ground, particularly in flood prone areas," he advised.

Mr. Clarke observed that in the event crops were destroyed due to hurricane or any other natural disaster, Government had put in place a disaster relief fund designed to get farmers back into production as quickly as possible.

"What we have is a loan fund with every modest interest rates – one or two per cent and it is also supported by an extensive moratorium.?? For example, if you specialise in poultry you have six months or so before you pay back that loan," he stated.

While stressing that they were a number of procedures that persons must follow before being eligible for the loan, Mr. Clarke pointed out it was the Ministry’s aim to get persons back on their feet as soon as possible.

"After the disaster, our extensions officer comes and makes an assessment of the damage and the matter is then reported to the Agricultural Development Fund.?? Persons can then go the Fund, and based upon the resources required to get back into business as fast as possible, they will then dispense the loan to you. The fund is in place and it is working, as there are currently about a dozen farmers or so who are utilising it," he said.

The Chief Agricultural Officer also gave the assurance that there were a number of contact personnel available to offer assistance before, or during the hurricane.

"The principal contact personnel for issues of the farming community would be the two deputy Chief Agricultural Officers and they are located at the Ministry of Agriculture at Graeme Hall at telephone number 434-5000. They would then delegate some responsibility to the extension officers," he stated.

Meanwhile, Chief Fisheries Officer, Steven Willoughby issued a warning to fishermen and boat owners to put proper contingency plans in place to safeguard their vessels.

Lamenting the fact that persons ignored the call to secure their boats within a timely manner, the fisheries officer urged them to cooperate with his department to ensure "smooth sailing" in the event of a hurricane.

He said; "The Fisheries Division has a plan to safeguard vessels in the event of bad weather and the plan is activated as soon as the seas start to get rough and choppy.?? First of all, we have the coast being divided into seven zones and zone supervisor goes assigned to each zone. In the event of bad weather, the zone supervisor goes out to the zones to assess the sea conditions and to collect information on the number of boats to be removed from the water. This information is then fed back to the Control Centre in the Fisheries Division for decision-making."

Mr. Willoughby also called on those persons working in fisheries to shoulder some of the responsibility when it came to preparing for the season.

??"Owners are responsible for securing their vessels and we are urging boat owners to have, or to develop a plan for storing and securing their vessels.?? In this plan, they need to identify where the boat will be stored and secured … the materials to secure the boat and where they [the materials] will be stored," he underlined.

"The plan should contain a list of equipment, and items onboard the vessel should be marked so that if they are blown around by the wind they would be easily identifiable. The list should contain key contact persons [such as] the Fisheries Division, the Zone Supervisor, the Chief and Deputy Fisheries Officers, the boat captain and the names of the fishermen," he underscored.

Mr. Willoughby appealed to fishermen to obtain the required necessities such as rope, fenders, old tires, etc, so that they would be able to fender their vessels.?? He also emphasised that they should make sure that their mooring and berthing lines were in good condition.

The Chief Fisheries Officer also reminded fishermen to make an early decision in terms of seeking safe harbor or hauling their boats out of the water.

"We will be visiting a site only once before moving on, so it means that they have to be prepared when they [fisheries officers] come on site to haul that vessel, because we will not be turning back to go to the site, when there are people down the line who are waiting to get hauled out," he warned.

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