Dominica is exploring the feasibility of developing a geographical information system (GIS) in monitoring and managing the black sigatoka disease.
This is being done through a two day workshop organized by the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute, (CARDI) in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Close to twenty professionals from various sectors including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, Banana Unit, Black Sigatoka Management Unit, Office of Disaster Management, Central Statistics, Quarantine Unit, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and farmers are attending the workshop which commenced on Wednesday 1 February.
Black sigatoka disease has been identified as one of the major constraints to banana and plantain production in the Caribbean.
Since it was confirmed here in 2011, the disease has significantly impacted the island’s banana and plantain production as well as costed the country millions in managing it.
“Notwithstanding the significant decline in the banana output over the years, banana and plantain production still is an important contributor to food and nutrition security and rural income and employment,” Dorian Etienne of CARDI Dominica said.
Although, in the recent past we in Dominica has not been exporting to its traditional UK markets, Etienne said domestic consumption and intra-regional trade in banana and plantain has emerged as a significant contributor to the income of farmers.
He noted that the future of what is left of the industry is however under severe strain given the emergence of the black sigatoka disease and stakeholders have rightly recognized the regional intervention is the most effective way to manage the impact of the disease.
Geographical information system (GIS) is growing in importance as a decision making tool for the agricultural sector as it provides valuable information that can be used to cost effectively and efficiently monitor, predict and manage the spread of agricultural pests and diseases.
Therefore, the workshop, being held at the University of the West Indies Open Campus Site on Elmshall Road, is part of CARDI and CBD’s project at developing an integrated disease management program for Black Sigatoka in Dominica, Guyana, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to Etienne, the objective of that integrated disease management program for Black Sigatoka is to develop an enhanced framework for black sigatoka disease management in those target countries.
He informed that this program will include making recommendations on plant nutrition and management of that, use of fungicide and torrents, cultivars by agriculture zones.
“The integrated crop management approach will lead towards the development of black sigatoka disease measures which will utilize the minimum amount of fungicides in order to lower the cost of control and the risk of fungicide resistance and negative environmental impacts,” Etienne said.
Over the past fourteen months, zonal evaluations have been conducted in Dominica, St Vincent and St Lucia and these evaluations they are well advanced and should be completed by May 2017.
The use of geographical information system tools is being considered as part of the suite of options in the development of an integrated management plan for black sigatoka disease.
“The participants at this workshop will be given an overview of GIS and its applicability to agriculture, specifically to black sigatoka disease and learn about the importance of data and data collection techniques,” Etienne stated.
An assessment of the requirements for establishing and maintaining such a system in Dominica will also be discussed with particular emphasis on the technical training, equipment, software, and personnel needs for black sigatoka disease management surveillance.
Etienne said CARDI is pleased to be working with various ministries of agriculture in the region in improving the capacity of stakeholders to monitor the incidents of black sigatoka disease and implement appropriate strategies to reduce the impact of the disease at the farm level.
“We are confident that in the long term, this will translate to an increase in the number of sustainable financially viable banana and plantain farms, improvement in farmer’s income and returns on investment and positive contributions to economic growth and development in Dominica and the wider Caribbean,” he noted.