Assistance to improve local agricultural emergency preparedness in Caribbean countries highly prone to hydro- meteorological disasters – Jamaica
Balfour Spence, Ph.D.
Department of Geography and Geology
The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
The vulnerability of the Caribbean region to hydro- meteorological hazards such as hurricanes, floods, drought, high magnitude rainfall and related hazards such landslides is underscored. The recurrent impacts of these events have wreaked havoc on environment, economy and society throughout the region. Although the contribution of agriculture to Caribbean regional GDP has steadily declined over the last two decades, this sector has remained a major employer of labour and as such a main player in the livelihood profile of the region. The extreme vulnerability of the agricultural sector to a variety of hazards/disaster has been a perpetual focus of hazard/disaster management and interventions in the Caribbean. Over the past decade, the FAO has regular responded to the relief/rehabilitation/reconstruction needs of the sector in the aftermath of hurricane-related disasters. While such response and rehabilitation interventions are important, the extent of devastation caused to the agricultural sector by the 2004-2005 hurricane season stresses the need to move from a reactive to a proactive mode in order to facilitate more long term and sustainable benefits form interventions. It is in recognition of the immense negative impact of the 2004 hurricane season on the agricultural landscape of the Caribbean region and in response to the urgent call for assistant from regional policy makers, that the Food and Agricultural Organization funded the regional project Assistance to improve local agricultural emergency preparedness in Caribbean countries highly prone to hydro-meteorological hazards/disasters.
Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and Grenada were among the worst affected countries by hurricane-related disasters during 2004-2005, hence the urgent need to emphasize preparedness as a mitigation strategy for the impacts of these events. While the aforementioned countries all have Disaster and Risk Management (DRM) frameworks that address preparedness and mitigation issues to different extent and involve a wide cross-section of stakeholders, there are weaknesses in linking long-term development planning within the agricultural sector with the realities and projections of recurrent natural hazards/disasters and improving preparedness and mitigation measures. Until relatively recently, DRM has followed the traditional path of emphasis at the national and regional levels with scant regard for community level needs. Over the last 5 years the Caribbean region has been experiencing a paradigm shift in this regard, with increased recognition of the importance and advantages of community-based disaster management planning. It is this approach to DRM which is advocated in the FAO project being implemented.
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