Safer Farming Practices Aids in Crisis Prevention

Farmers working on the Northern Range in Trinidad. Photo courtesy: GEF SGP Trinidad and Tobago

Much has changed in three generations of farming in Trinidad’s Northern Range – a range of tall hills that rise abruptly from the island’s lowlands and spread between its western and eastern coasts.  Maracas Bay farmer Mr. Ramnarine Rampray recognises the changing landscape all to well.  “In my father’s time, I remember that farmers applied very little chemicals to their crops. They did not use fertilizers or pesticides unless necessary, such as if you had mole cricket infestation” says Ramnarine. “Today chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used heavily on farms. Sometimes I wonder if it is safe to eat the produce that I grow because I know the amount of chemicals I have to apply to my crops.”

Safer Farming Practices

  • Over 100 farmers have benefitted from this programme through training in using environmentally friendly farming practices.
  • The Cropper Foundation, received financing from UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme to the tune of US$138 684.

The potential danger posed by farmers, who use fertilizers and pesticides on their crops, are both threats to their families and customers and the national community.  This is because sixty percent of Trinidad’s fresh water originates from the Northern Range and the chemicals used by farmers can easily find their way into the waterways which feed the country’s reservoirs. To help in alleviating this hazard local environmental NGO, The Cropper Foundation, received financing from UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme to the tune of US$138,684.  The project focuses on building Small Scale Farmers Capacity to Implement Sustainable Farming Practices in Trinidad’s Northern Range.

Over 100 farmers have benefitted from this programme through training in using environmentally friendly farming practices. One example of a safer practice is replacing the use of fertilisers with the proper application of compose.  Mark Thomas from Cropper Foundation explains, “When you spray too much fertilizers and pesticides it actually kills the useful organisms in the soil like earthworms and bacteria that add natural nutrients to the soil so you get short term productivity (but) in the long term the soil becomes less productive because these chemicals have a negative effect on the organisms that live in the soil and make the soil rich.”

More productive soil has meant that the farmers are able to produce a better quality of crop which should last them much longer than it would have if they had continued to use fertilizers as their main means of promoting the growth of their crop.  Through the project farmers also learnt techniques specifically for farming on hillsides such as terracing.  This technique where farming surface looks like steps so that rainfall travels slower which benefits the plants and reduces perennial flooding in low lying communities.

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