November 09, 2016
Executive Director of BAMSI Dr. Raveena Roberts-Hanna (center, in black) and her team meet with officials from the Bahamas Department of Meteorology and Colorado State University.
UNDER the umbrella of partnering with global entities to advance the cause of agriculture, the Bahamas became an official member of CoCoRaHS – the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network this past summer. Spurred by BAMSI’s Executive Director Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) now serves as a volunteer agent in Andros. Currently part of a network that spans across the North American continent, BAMSI will measure rainfall in Andros on a daily basis, Dr. Roberts-Hanna said.
As part of the initiative, a team of meteorologists led by Godfrey Burnside of the Department of Meteorology and Henry Reges of Colorado State University, visited BAMSI in May. The group discussed CoCoRaHS and how the information gathered is used to help communities. They also offered a brief training session for staff and faculty on how measurements should be taken and recorded. Dr. Roberts-Hanna noted that associations with agencies like CoCoRaHS creates added value for the Institute; increasing its resources, building its knowledge bank and exposing students, staff, partners and stakeholders to a global perspective.
While the Bahamas does not typically experience snow or hail, BAMSI will capture the variability of rainfall on Andros. Cited as the single most critical environmental factor for farmers, Director of Academics for BAMSI and a specialist in soil science Dr. Joseph Lindsay said the information captured is extremely important for the Institute. “It helps us in terms of irrigation management, and in the case of bananas – [is a crucial component in] disease monitoring. Black sigatoka [a disease found in bananas] is distributed by wind and water and the more rainfall you have the worse the situation will likely be. You can predict the outcomes of some diseases, the incidence of diseases, based on the level of rainfall and humidity. It also informs your spray and irrigation programmes.”
Dr. Lindsay also pointed out that many Bahamian soils are very sandy and as a result drain excessively, “you have to irrigate on a regular basis, but if there is an adequate amount of rainfall you might not have to do so as frequently”. He noted further that as part of the CoCoRaHS network the Bahamas is now able to identify any trends, such as predicting the impact of heavy rains moving across the region, and then take preventative measures and even examine cost implications, such as labour. “In areas that have a great deal of flooding or where there is livestock for example, farmers can be alerted and preventative measures, such as evacuating, can be taken. Conversely, if you see there is a drought you can irrigate more frequently, i.e. apply more water.”
CoCoRaHS provides training to volunteers to ensure accurate and consistent reports are made. As a result of their visit to BAMSI, three rain gauges were installed - at the BARTAD building (which serves as the classroom centre for the associate degree programmes and short courses), the aquaponics facility and the fruit orchard at the commercial farm. “We’ve been measuring the rain fall ever since!”, Dr. Lindsay said.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network is a non-profit, community based, network of volunteers who measure and report rain, hail and snow falling their backyards. The network evolved as a result of a flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado in 1997. The intent is to do a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. CoCoRaHS became a nationwide volunteer network in 2010 and is now international community with observers (in Canada, the US and the Bahamas) helping provide critical precipitation observations benefitting their country’s needs.
*For more information on CoCoRaHS visit www.cocorahs.org.
Source: Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute