Someone reminded me today that just a year ago we were all obsessed with water. Why? Because there was none. The 2015 drought (there was a 2014 one too) was beginning to really bite last June, while temperatures soared – including more warm nights (haven’t we all felt this?) Many Jamaicans had no water in their pipes, at all. Rivers ran dry. Bush fires burned.
No one is talking much about what local media like to call “the precious commodity” this year, because we have had rain. But we are still worried about water in one sense. We are now storing rainwater (which is good, right?) but in that water breeds wriggling mosquito larvae, which are giving us diseases. It seems we cannot win.
Let us not be in any way complacent. Climate change is here (as the last Minister reminded us repeatedly: “Climate change is here!”) and that means that the tropics are drying out, steadily. Droughts in the Caribbean actually began to settle in several years ago and have never really gone away. They are here to stay.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has just released a report titled Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean (produced with the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute of the University of Lincoln-Nebraska). You can find the full report here: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5695e.pdf The report notes that weak governance, poor land management, “lack of capacity at every level” and lack of finance are major barriers at the national level to implementing long term solutions. Agriculture officials in the region are more worried about flooding and hurricanes than they are about drought, the FAO concludes.
So, we will live with more droughts. Crops will dry up in the fields (most of our agriculture being rain-dependent). Food will be less available, more expensive. Fresh drinking water will become scarcer.
What are we doing about it? I will leave that question hanging, for now.
Or you can send me some answers.