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Rehabilitating flooded lands

Farmers lost crops in the recent floods. Image source: trini-talks.com

A fortnight ago, Trinidad and Tobago was severely affected by heavy rainfall initiated by an ITCZ which resulted in heavy flooding. Properties, personal belongings and vehicles were destroyed. However, we saw an overwhelming positive response from citizens where communities came together providing support and comfort for each other.

Our farmers also suffered a great loss. In my recent discussions with members of the farming community, acres of crops ready for harvest were lost; livestock was swept away with the strong currents; and poultry farmers were left with thousands of dead carcasses after the floods subsided.

Apart from loss of livelihood, the challenges that these farmers will continue to experience include waterlogged and nutrient-deficient soils, eroded soils, an increase in pest and diseases harmful to plants, animals and humans, extensive clean up and the added cost of attaining new equipment.

For all farmers and gardeners affected by flooding, here are some tips that can be utilised to aid in the restoration of your agricultural lands:

Allow the land to dry out thoroughly. This can take a few weeks based on the weather conditions and drainage. In the interim, clean all equipment that was exposed to the flood water.

After the land is dried, clean out all debris and root out all dead plants. Do not harvest and consume any crop that was exposed to flooding.

Assess the land, taking note of any foreign pest—for example, snails—that has entered your field. In Trinidad, be on the lookout for the Giant African Snail (Lissachatina fulica) which tends to surface after flooding and report it to the nearest Ministry of Agriculture. Do not attempt to touch them because they are carriers of the parasitic worm which causes Meningitis in humans.

Plough the soil, integrating the silt from the floods into the fields. Rotovate the land and add manure to help rebuild nutrient structure. If possible, soil solarisation should be attempted by covering the land with black plastic tarping when the sun is out. This will reduce fungal pathogens in the soil.

Create or recreate drainage around land. Ensure that the nearby water source is cleared and dredged. If space permits, consider digging a pond onto your land.

It is, without doubt, the impacts of climate change which have directly affected agriculture, hence we need to be prepared and start the conversation of ‘climate-smart’ agriculture.

For homeowners whose landscapes have been affected by the flooding and where ornamentals need rehabilitating, and for farmers who would like further assistance in restoring their lands please feel free to email me for additional tips.

Send questions to rayannaboodram@hotmail.com.