Cuban agriculture
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Cuba on edge as drought worsens

Cuba on edge as drought worsens
HAVANA | BY MARC FRANK

Cuba put its civil defense system on alert on Monday due to a year-long
drought that is forecast to worsen in the coming months and has already
damaged agriculture and left more than a million people relying on
trucked-in water.

From Cuba’s famous cigars to sugar, vegetables, rice, coffee and beans,
the drought is damaging crops. It has slowed planting and left one in 10
residents waiting for government tank trucks to survive in record summer
heat.

The country’s civil defense system said the drought, record heat and
water leakage have led to “low levels of available water for the
population, agriculture, industry and services.”

The government has not provided a national breakdown of drought damage
but it said on Monday that emergency measures were being taken at all
levels, including stricter rationing of water through the state-run
waterworks.

Communist-run Cuba loses around 50 percent of the water pumped from its
reservoirs due to leaks. There is little irrigation of farm land and the
systems that exist are outdated and inefficient.

Drought conditions across the Caribbean, caused by the phenomenon known
as El Nino, have left reservoirs at 37 percent of capacity.

Cuban authorities appear increasingly alarmed by the situation, which
could lead to wider rationing in major cities and hard choices on where
water should be allocated with winter planting, the tourism season and
sugar milling all beginning in November.

“The drought is everyone’s problem and so every state entity has to …
create a plan immediately,” Chapman Waught, who heads Cuba’s waterworks,
said last week as she toured the country.

This year’s rainy season, which includes the hurricane season, is
forecast to bring rains well below the norm due to El Nino.

It has been seven years since a hurricane, which on average hits Cuba
every other year, has swept along the island, dumping much-needed
torrential rains along with inevitable damage.

Hurricane Sandy cut a narrow path across parts of eastern Cuba in 2012.

“It is hard to believe, but many of us are hoping for a hurricane,” said
Nuris Lopez, a hairdresser in eastern Granma province where residents
receive a bit of water once a week and otherwise rely on tanker trucks.

“I might lose my roof, but at least I could clean my house,” she said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: Cuba on edge as drought worsens | Reuters –
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/17/us-cuba-drought-idUSKCN0QM1P220150817

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