Responding to Climate Change from the Grassroots Up

GUNTHORPES, Antigua – As concern mounts over food security, two community groups are on a drive to mobilize average people across Antigua and Barbuda to mitigate and adapt in the wake of global climate change, which is affecting local weather patterns and by extension, agricultural production.

“I want at least 10,000 people in Antigua and Barbuda to join with me in this process of trying to mitigate against the effects of climate change,” Dr. Evelyn Weekes told IPS.

Bhimwattie Sahid picks a papaya in her backyard garden in Guyana. Food security is a growing concern for the Caribbean as changing weather patterns affect agriculture. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

“I am choosing the area of agriculture because that is one of the areas that will be hardest hit by climate change and it’s one of the areas that contribute so much to climate change.

“I plan to mobilize at least 10,000 households in climate action that involves waste diversion, composting and diversified ecological farming,” said Weekes, who heads the Aquaponics, Aquaculture and Agro-Ecology Society of Antigua and Barbuda.

She said another goal of the project is “to help protect our biodiversity, our ecosystems and our food security” by using the ecosystem functions in gardening as this would prevent farmers from having to revert to monocrops, chemical fertilizers and pesticide use.

Food security is a growing concern, not just for Antigua and Barbuda but all Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as changing weather patterns affect agriculture.

Scientists are predicting more extreme rain events, including flooding and droughts, and more intense storms in the Atlantic in the long term.

Weekes said the projects being proposed for smallholder farmers in vulnerable areas would be co-funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (GEF SGP).

“Our food security is one of the most precious things that we have to look at now and ecologically sound agriculture is what is going to help us protect that,” Weekes said.

“I am appealing to churches, community groups, farmers’ groups, NGOs, friendly societies, schools, etc., to mobilize their members so that we can get 10,000 or more people strong trying to help in mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

Dr. Weekes explained that waste diversion includes redirecting food from entering the Cooks landfill in a national composting effort.

“Don’t throw kitchen scraps in your garbage because where are they going to end up? They are going to end up in the landfill and will cause more methane to be released into the atmosphere,” she said.

Methane and carbon dioxide are produced as organic matter decomposes under anaerobic conditions (without oxygen), and higher amounts of organic matter, such as food scraps, and humid tropical conditions lead to greater gas production, particularly methane, at landfills.

As methane has a global warming potential 72 times greater than carbon dioxide, composting food scraps is an important mitigation activity. Compost can also help reconstitute degraded soil, thus boosting local agriculture.