Drought Mitigation

At the national level, drought mitigation practices include drought preparedness, drought assistance, and drought rehabilitation. Usually the ministries of agriculture deliver educational materials to farmers to help them prepare for drought. A variety of mechanisms are adopted, such as area meetings with agricultural stakeholders, farm visitations, newsletters, and the use of radio and television advertisements. Education involves informing and preparing the agricultural stakeholders for the onset of dry conditions, highlighting the characteristics of an ongoing drought, and teaching or encouraging alternative farming practices for use in drought-prone areas. Four practices are generally encouraged in the West Indies: (1) mulching or covering the soil surface with dried plant matter to prevent evaporation of the surface water; (2) planting a "cover crop" such as peas or

Table 11.2 Worst harvests at Worthy Park estate in Jamaica with possible stress types and causative conditions


% yield deviation from 1950-99 average yield

Stress 1 (% or normal rainfall)

Stress 2 (% of normal rainfall)

Stress 3 (% of normal min. temp)

Stress 4 (% of normal rainfall)

Prevailing conditions



54%; 1950 (March-May, July)

27%;1951 (Jan.-March)

1950-51 La Niña



58%; 1951 (June, Sept., Oct.)

48%; Nov. '51-Feb. '52

1951-52 El Niño, Hurricañ Charlie-Aug. 51



64%; 1976 (Apr.-Oct.)

43%; Nov. '76-March '77

100.6%; Nov. '76-March '87

1976-77 El Niño



62%; 1986 (May, July-Oct.)

59%; Nov.'86-March'87

102.8%; Jan. '87-March '87

1986-87 El Niño, Flood rains in June 86



64%; 1988 (June, Aug., Oct.)

61%; Nov. '88-Jan. '89

1987-88 El Niño, Hurricane Gilbert-Sept. 88



46%; 1991 (June-Oct.)

61%; Dec. '91-Feb. '92

102.8%; Nov. '91-March '92

1991-92 El Niño



268%; 1966 (May, June)

1965-66 El Niñño



49%; 1982 (June, Aug.-Dec.)

100.7%; Nov. '82-Dec. '82

1982-83 El Niño



63%; 1990 (May, June, Aug. Sept.)

51%; Dec. '90-Apr. '91

104.4%; Nov. '90-March '91

1990-92 El Niño



67%; 1985 (March-July, Sept. Oct.)

1984-85 La Niña

pumpkins in regions of porous (e.g., sandy-loam) soil to help retain surface water; (3) planting deep-rooted crops along the edges of hilly terrain to prevent soil erosion and loss of surface water; and (4) the use of intercropping, where tall crops are planted to shade a shorter crop.

In the advent of prolonged drought, drought-assistance strategies come into play. Often this involves trucking water to drought-stricken areas. A Rapid Response Unit under the Jamaican Ministry of Water and Housing is responsible for installing water tanks in households and on farms (at reduced cost) to mitigate drought impacts on humans, livestock, and crops. Finally, in the case of severe drought causing total loss of a season's crop, many West Indian governments implement drought rehabilitation programs, which include supply of fertilizers, seeds, land preparation assistance, planting materials, livestock feed, or the installation of miniirrigation systems.

Between August 1997 and June 1998, Guyana experienced drier (75% of normal rainfall) than normal conditions attributable to El Niño. Sugarcane production declined by 35%, and rice production for the spring season fell by 37%. Upon the request of the Guyanese government, CDERA assessed the severity of the drought, its effects, and the resulting needs of the sector, and formulated response strategies on a local, regional and international scale. These responses included coordinating the purchase and installation of water storage facilities and pumps for farmers in the most severely affected areas; acquiring paddy seeds for replanting during the next season; and obtaining grants and food rations for affected families.

Following the devastating effects of the 1997 El Niño event, the government of Jamaica, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM; www.odpem.org.jm), formulated a drought plan and activated a drought response team. The drought plan addresses domestic, agricultural, and industrial water needs throughout Jamaica, utilizing a multiple-agencies approach to drought management. It is divided into sections according to the disaster cycle, under the headings of preparedness, mitigation, emergency response, rehabilitation, and development. It calls for the activation of the response team during the period identified as a meteorological drought by the meteorological office.

For drought preparedness activities, the Climate Studies Group Mona was assigned the task of issuing advisories of impending drought to the ODPEM and the Meteorological Office of Jamaica when appropriate. The meteorological office, which maintains the water and climatological station network in Jamaica and monitors meteorological drought indices, was assigned the task of issuing warnings and alerts to the ODPEM and other agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Agricultural Development Agencies (www.radajamaica.com.jm).

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