Water shortage in the Dominican Republic puts agriculture to the test

"The eagerly awaited rainy season just isn’t gathering momentum this year", bemoans Volker Schmidt, agricultural engineer at BioTropic in the Dominican Republic. Average temperatures have been at about 34°C for weeks now. These temperatures are not exceptional for the Caribbean – but the situation will become critical if there is not sufficient rainfall to balance it out. The impact is most apparent for agriculture there. The landscape is dominated by dry plants and crop failures.

The Dominican Republic is very dependent upon its agriculture. Basic foodstuffs such as manioc, plantains, potatoes or rice are planted there. The drop in crop yields this year results in prices for foodstuffs going up. This hits the poorest people hardest and they account for 40 percent of the population in the country.

BioTropic in the Dominican Republic is also affected as only 20 percent of the lime crop yield envisaged this year was harvested.

The BioTropic bananas are also in a poor state this year. The canals running along the edges of the banana plantations are fed by rivers flowing down from the mountains. But at present very little rain is falling there too. The lack of water is putting the plants under stress. Yellow crowns as well as fruit ripening at different times are some of the symptoms.

The Dominican government has reacted. No new plants may be planted anywhere in the country for the time being; water consumption is to be reduced to a minimum.

The Dominican Republic is one of the countries most affected in the world by climate change. The population have felt the detrimental consequences of it for years now. Storms and flooding have put the country to the test again and again.

Many inhabitants simply aren’t aware of the causes and consequences of climate change. Educational projects represent an important step to raising awareness since in the long term, lifestyle changes cannot be made if the population is not aware of the problem. The Cibao ecological centre records the steps that have been taken on the BioTropic site. This year the ecological centre Cibao has been teaching pupils and students about organic farming, renewable energy and sustainable environmental protection. For example with a water purification unit that works on basis of plants. The unit purifies the wastewater of a nearby prison ecologically, as an example of successful recycling and prudent use of the limited resource "water", which is still handled too carelessly on the Caribbean island, and many other areas in the world.

Author: Visnja Malesic
Pictures: BioTropic GmbH

Tags: Bananas (GB), Dominican Republic (GB), Limes (GB), Ecological Centre "Cibao" (GB), Volker Schmidt (GB)

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