Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hurricane Matthew--How you can help the farmers of Haiti

"Hurricane Matthew destroyed their crops in the middle of the growing season. And they will need the most help NOW, as the new growing season begins."

 October 4th through the 6th, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti head on.  
 It was the worst natural-human caused disaster that Haiti has suffered since the earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Hurricane Matthew's greatest impact was in Haiti's southwestern peninsula. Grand Anse, including the capital of Jeremie, was devastated. The report on the hurricane's impact on Haiti from  Wikipedia [Effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti ] suggests that virtually every tree in Grand Anse was knocked down. I avoided looking at many photos, but I did read a few accounts from folks on the ground who confirmed that that land looked like it had been bombed. Cindy Corell, one our colleagues in World Mission shared some of what she saw in her blog from November 2016 [Cindy Corell: November 2016]. All crops were lost and at least half of the farm animals. The departments of Sur and Nippe were also exceptionally hard hit, as was the northwestern peninsula. The first map below demarcates the wind levels suffered. The second gives actual rainfall. Links in the captions lead to the original sources.

From twenty years now of experience with tropical storms and hurricanes, I know that rainfall causes much more widespread damage than the wind in mountainous terrain such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, although with winds of 145 mph in the southwest, the winds that smacked southwester Haiti certainly were the initial source of the utter devastation. After Hurricane Matthew had passed, however, rains continued to fall for three weeks throughout the country; they fell most heavily in the south and the northeast. In part due to the continued heavy rains, a new round of cholera has added to the misery [A Photographer's Journey Into Haiti’s Cholera Crisis].

Overview of track and wind forces

This image shows the amount of rainfall dropped by Hurricane Matthew over the life and track of the storm. IMERG real time data covering the period from Sept. 28 through Oct. 10, 2016 show rainfall from Hurricane Matthew before and after its interaction with a frontal boundary. Matthew caused extreme rainfall in North Carolina resulting in over 20 inches (508 mm) of rain. Credits: NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce

The Haiti Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is working to link people throughout the denomination engaged with Haiti. You can check out the Facebook page:

Haiti Mission Network-Presbyterian Church (USA)

If you want to check out the posts most pertinent to the situation with Hurricane Matthew, you will need to select (upper left hand corner) "2016", rather than "Recent." October and November have the most posts.

This past March 12th, 13th and 14th, we had a major Mission Network Get Together in Asheville, North Carolina. Buzz Durham from outside of Asheville coordinated  a host of volunteers to make it happen. His congregation, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church was one of the main hosts. Our colleague Jo Ella Holman worked with Buzz, Cindy Corell, and me to think through some of the logistics. Cindy and I, together with Cindy's Haitian colleague from FONDAMA, Fabienn Jean participated in the event, which included between 35 and 40 people representing more than a dozen mission engagements. Our focus was how can we be effective and respectful partners of the work that Haitians are already doing.

Cindy Corell [Mission Connections] has some excellent posts on Facebook: Cindy Corell: Facebook

I had the pleasure of translating for Fabienne Jean as she described to the participants how FONDAMA is responding to the crisis in the south as well as other areas hit by the subsequent flooding.

I visited FONDAMA's office in December during a quick family trip and saw the initial stockpile of vegetable seeds that they had purchased to send out to the farmer organizations working in departments of Haiti most affected by Matthew.  Most of these seeds were sent to Grand Anse, Nippe, Sur and L'Ouest, as well as the Nordest. They had cabbage, lettuce, tropical spinach (amaranth), okra and black-eyed peas, all crops that can be ready to eat and to sell in less than three months. The spinach can be ready for the table in 30 days or less from the planting date.
Farmers in Haiti are durable people. Knock their house down, they will find a way to put it back up. But Hurricane Matthew destroyed their crops in the middle of the growing season. And they will need the most help NOW, as the new growing season begins. As many of you know, FONDAMA is a network of grassroots farmer organizations led by people who understand their constituency--because they are farmers themselves.

Their focus in December were vegetable seeds--fast growing food. Now, Fabienne explained, they are working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to provide seeds for staple crops--beans, corn, pigeon pea. Along with the seeds they will train trainers in agroecological techniques that can help farmers recuperate their land, even as they grow the food that will sustain their families. The trainers, Fabienne explained, come from throughout the remote rural areas of the mountainous Southwest. They live near the people with whom they will be working. In each community they will also establish seed banks, where farmers will repay their seeds, plus interest. The goal is for these seed banks to serve as buffers, to create resilience, so that farmers have greater security when the time to plant comes.

Fabienne explained that the work also include providing simple systems for treating water, the main source of cholera infections.

If they can find the funds, the leaders of FONDAMA hope to include a second stage to this program, helping families recover their farm animals, especially the goats and pigs.

Thank you to all of you who have already donated through PDA and other funding sites. Thank you also for your prayers and your concern. If you or your congregation feel called to donate now, PDA is still a great way to go.

Funds can be sent to PDA, (https://pma.pcusa.org/donate/make-a-gift/gift-info/DR000193/) which is working hand in hand with Fondama Haiti to help provide seeds and tools to the mountain farmers of Haiti.

 It is unfortunate that my first Haiti blog after so long is about a disaster. But it was probably the burning need to do something that brought me back here again, finally.

In my next blog, I want to share stories from the communities where Herve Delisma and I worked from April 2012 through April 2016 with yard gardens. MPP (Farmer Movement of Papaye) was able to send Herve and a small team to each of the three farmer organizations to visit with people who were also hit by the hurricane. The winds, even though much less, tore off a lot of roofs and destroyed homes throughout the mountains of Léogâne, Verettes and Bayonnais. Crops were lost as were the farm animals. Many of the yard gardens, however, survived.

But that is the next story!

P.S. The mission of FONDAMA and all of the Joining Hands organizations throughout the world is to address root causes of hunger. In Haiti, in addition to responding compassionately to the situation in the south, FONDAMA is gearing up to confront large corporations and the Haitian government itself as these entities move to grab land from small holder farmers for the creations of industrial parks, mega-plantations of bananas and other export crops, or for mining gold and other minerals.

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