At start of hurricane season, UF researchers assist Haiti’s agricultural sector address climate-related risks
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 8, 2018 — As Haiti entered the Atlantic hurricane season last week, University of Florida scientists supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development are stepping up their efforts to help the Caribbean country’s vital agricultural sector prepare for the threat posed by increasingly variable weather and climate patterns.
USAID’s Feed the Future Haiti project known as AREA — a French acronym for Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole (or Support to Agricultural Research and Development) — is rolling out a series of new activities this summer aimed at improving Haiti’s capacity to collect and analyze weather and climate data and to train Haitian professionals to use technology in ways that will help farmers to better manage risks associated with climate variability.
Last week, the University of Florida-managed AREA project trained 17 meteorologists, technicians and other experts to analyze, interpret and communicate about weather and climate data in ways that can most benefit agronomists and farmers. The attendees were from Haiti’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Service (UHM), the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), Haitian universities and other institutions. The two-day workshop focused on R-Instat, an open-source statistical software used to analyze and present weather and climate data. By studying historical data on rainfall, temperature, winds and related information, experts can capture important weather and climate trends and present an interpretation to nonspecialists using powerful visual tools such as graphs and charts.
“The ultimate goal is to bring relevant information to farmers,” said Caroline Staub, Ph.D., a faculty member of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the leader of AREA’s Climate Smart Solutions program.
Staub led the workshop with Roger Stern, an emeritus professor of applied statistics at the University of Reading, which is known for its meteorological research on weather and climate. A second workshop, an in-depth training on the R programming language for agricultural research and particularly plant pathology, will be led by AREA team members Drs. Karen Garrett and Joubert Fayette on June 11 and 12.
Later this summer, AREA will provide second-generation weather stations and train agricultural experts, engineers and meteorologists to assemble, install, program and connect the equipment to the internet. William Eisenstadt, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Florida and an AREA research team member, will lead the training as part of AREA’s ongoing work to improve Haiti’s sparse network of meteorological stations. “This will give researchers, extension agents and farmers more information and allow them to better analyze weather patterns and manage crops in an era of rapid climate change,” Eisenstadt said.
Haiti is particularly vulnerable to varying climate conditions, in part because it is an island country that suffers from widespread food insecurity and yet is heavily dependent on rainfed agriculture. As weather patterns change, Haiti’s food production is threatened by a variety of factors, including more extreme and unpredictable wet and dry periods and the impacts of major storms like Hurricane Matthew, which caused widespread destruction to infrastructure and crops in southern Haiti in 2016.
Media contact: Caroline Staub, Ph.D., University of Florida, Climate Smart Solutions leader for AREA, 352-273-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org
About AREA: In 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded a five-year contract to a consortium of three U.S. land grant institutions led by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to support its Feed the Future initiative in Haiti to reduce the country’s chronic food insecurity. The project — known in French as Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole (AREA) and in English as Support to Agricultural Research and Development — assists Haitian agricultural researchers, professionals and institutions to modernize the country’s agricultural sector. http://global.ifas.ufl.edu/area-project