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Trinidad and Tobago

Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

The scarce rainfall during the dry season and the Petit Carême make irrigation necessary for crop production in some parts of the country. According to a land capability survey carried out in 1974, irrigation potential area considering soil suitability for irrigation (slope lower than 10 percent and alluvial and terrace lands) was estimated at approximately 102 000 ha. The Basic Agricultural Studies (1992) stated that irrigation is a key element in the agricultural development of the country, and a general target of increasing area under irrigation to 30 000 ha over a period of 20 years was suggested (Table 4). Even though this target is far from being reached in 2012, 20 years later, 30 000 ha is considered to be the irrigation potential taking into account both suitable land and water resources. Agriculture in the country is mainly rainfed. Access to water for agricultural purposes faces competition from the municipal and industrial sectors in certain areas, especially during the periods of drought. (European Union/HTSPE Limited, 2013).

In 1982, the total area under irrigation was 3 712 ha of which 3 634 ha in Trinidad and 78 ha in Tobago (1982 Agricultural Census). In Trinidad, surface irrigation systems (furrow, basin) were predominant accounting for 78 percent of the area under irrigation followed by sprinkler irrigation (19 percent) and localized irrigation (3 percent). In Tobago, sprinkler irrigation was prevalent, occurring on 75 percent of the area under irrigation, followed by furrow irrigation (22 percent) (Figure 3). No systematic information regarding irrigated areas for the country as a whole is available since the 1982 Agricultural Census. In 1997 area equipped for irrigation was estimated at 3 600 ha, of which 90 percent were irrigated by surface water and 10 percent by groundwater (Figure 4). Actual irrigated area in the 1998 dry season was estimated at 3 041 ha, distributed as follows: Caroni (1 739 ha), South Oropouche (720 ha) and Nariva (147 ha), with small-scale irrigation in South Trinidad (435 ha). However, it should be noted that as the 1997 wet season was relatively dry, these figures will most probably reflect the lower ranges of the extent of irrigated area. Cropped and irrigated areas differ largely from the wet to the dry season.

In 2004, the area equipped for irrigation is estimated at 7 000 ha, while the actually irrigated area is at present estimated at 5 000 ha. Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago is practiced essentially under rainfed conditions.

Irrigation in Trinidad involves small diversions from creeks and streams at works built by private individuals. Irrigation by gravity flow is also practiced in the floodplains. This type of irrigation takes place on a small scale in the Guanapo, Aripo and San Juan rivers, and on a large scale in the Caroni and South Oropouche rivers.

The largest irrigation system is the Caroni system constructed to serve the surrounding rice fields. This system diverts water from the Caroni river and distributes the water over an area of about 1 200 ha. Other irrigation systems are small-scale and are located in St George, Nariva/Mayaro, St Andrew/St David, Victoria, and St Patrick.

Caroni (1975) Ltd., the former state owned sugar company for Trinidad and Tobago, played a major role in the economic and political life of the country. However, since the sugar industry in the country was not profitable and required substantial subsidies from the state, the government decided to close Caroni (1975) Ltd. in 2003. It then developed a National Sugar Adaptation Strategy (NSAS) that provided support to displaced workers and provided land for agricultural, residential and industrial development. Within the context of the NSAS the project “Water management and irrigation assessment and development on the Felicity Site, Central Trinidad” (also referred to as “Felicity Irrigation Project”), financed by the European Union, was carried out in 2013. The project has been implemented in conjunction with the Ministry of Food Production (MFP), and the Water Resources Agency (WRA) within the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). The project area consists of 530 ha in the former sugar lands of Caroni Ltd. The general objective of the project is to mitigate the adverse effects of restructuring the sugar sector in the country. The global objective of the project is to identify options for irrigated agriculture for the Felicity agricultural site in Central Trinidad (European Union/HTSPE Limited, 2013).

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, economy and society

No systematic data are available on irrigated crops. However, paddy rice, root crops and vegetables (such as pumpkins, cucumber, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, beans, watermelon) are the major crops grown under irrigation.

Investments in water management infrastructure for irrigation and drainage tend to be expensive and these investments are only justifiable to produce high value crops.

Women and irrigation

The National Policy on Gender and Development supports initiatives aimed at removing the obstacles to women’s and men’s equal and active participation in, and enjoyment of the benefits from agriculture and natural resource development.

Poverty among women can be linked to their multiple responsibilities, to their roles in family care and to the undervaluing of jobs within the domestic sphere such as subsistence and unpaid agricultural production (MCDCGA, 2009).

In general women play a critical role in the provision and management of water (Schneiderman and Reddock,2004).

Status and evolution of drainage systems

Drainage infrastructure and flood control structures are needed to allow cropping in the wet season in the lowlands. The drained area under irrigation was reported to be 776 ha in 1998 (Table 4).


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