Four years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean, there is still an urgency to understand how to best prepare farmers and working lands for future hurricanes. Agricultural advisors are first responders and witnesses of hurricane impacts and strategies used in hurricane preparedness and recovery. A new study by the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub analyzes the experiences of agricultural advisors involved in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to identify gaps in hurricane preparedness and recovery measures.
”Climate projections indicate the Caribbean will experience more intense hurricanes, which will increase the challenges to agriculture and food security. There is an urgent need to improve hurricane preparedness to minimize hurricane effects on the agricultural sector in the Caribbean,” said Dr. Nora Álvarez-Berríos, the study’s lead author.
The research team surveyed over 200 advisors from eight institutions who reported on the difficulties farmers face in the recovery process, including lack of supplies such as seeds, fertilizers and animal feed, lack of equipment and machinery for clean-up, impaired access to farms, and the need to expedite government assistance to meet farmers’ needs. Importantly, advisors indicated that while farmers and ranchers do apply recovery practices, the application of short-term preparedness practices is limited, and long-term preparedness practices are generally uncommon.
The advisors also reported on the challenges they face in assisting farmers, such as the inability to access farms, transportation issues, and lengthy times required to reach farmers. They highlighted the need for more training and educational resources to improve hurricane recovery response, and more tools to help farmers cope with emotional distress post-disaster.
The Caribbean Hub disseminates information on hurricane preparedness and best management practices to help reduce risks and mitigate hurricane effects. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.