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Rebuilding irrigation systems and improving road access to farms top priorities for Dominica’s agriculture sector

ROSEAU, Dominica — Restoring irrigation systems and road access to farming areas in Dominica are disaster response priorities that are vital to reestablishing the country’s food production destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

These priorities were highlighted as part of a meeting last week in Roseau between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Dominica’s ministry of agriculture and fisheries to discuss recovery and resource needs, as well as the importance of rebuilding for sustainable and resilient agriculture.

During the meeting, Johnson Drigo, Dominica’s minister of agriculture and fisheries, Harold Guiste, permanent secretary of the ministry of agriculture and fisheries, and Dr Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO subregional coordinator for the Caribbean, agreed that repairing Dominica’s irrigation systems is a mid-term goal that will help to regenerate crops especially as the dry season approaches.

They also recognized that many feeder roads to farms and rural communities have been inaccessible due to debris blockages caused by the hurricane, and recommended the clearing of debris is necessary to revitalize Dominica’s agriculture sector.

Damage to irrigation systems and inaccessible feeder roads have significantly hindered the country’s ability to begin regenerating its food production and related livelihoods. They have also created setbacks for reestablishing Dominica’s food security, as well as providing farmers with markets to get the produce to other countries who rely on Dominica’s crops for their own nutritional needs.

“The restoration of the agriculture sector is a priority for the Government of Dominica for national food security and we must ensure that all farmers – especially those in remote areas have access for their produce to get to the market,” Drigo said.

Staff from FAO’s Subregional Office for the Caribbean have been on the ground in Dominica since immediately after Hurricane Maria’s passage to help the ministry assess damage and to facilitate recovery efforts. FAO has also secured significant funding from a range of international donor agencies to finance the restoration of agricultural production and livelihoods.

To symbolize FAO’s support and commitment to helping the agriculture sector fully recover, Fletcher-Paul presented Drigo with vegetable seed varieties, fertilizer and farming tools that have been provided to Dominica to initiate replanting efforts. She also emphasized that restoring the sector should also include the introduction of climate smart technologies to reduce vulnerability to hazards, including hurricanes and other climate risks.

“The seeds and tools are just a small part of the inputs which are being provided by FAO and symbolize our commitment to work with the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica to resort the livelihoods of the affected farmers, but more importantly, to build back the agriculture sector so that it is better and more resilient,” Fletcher-Paul said.

To date, FAO has secured over US$500,000 in financial support to help rebuild Dominica’s agriculture and fisheries sectors. These funds include US$300,000 from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), as well as US$100,000 from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the crop and livestock production for ensuring food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable population through distribution of agricultural inputs.

Support generated by FAO also includes US$100,000 in Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) that will enable part of the fisherfolk population to resume their fishery activities and guarantee the conservation and storage of the fish capture through distribution of fishing gears, cooling equipment (i.e. refrigerators and ice making machines) as well as material to repair damaged boats and US$200,000 from the government of Brazil.

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