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Hurricane Sandy Washes Away Haitian Livelihoods

November 2012

Hurricane and Superstorm Sandy caused billions in damages from the Caribbean to Canada, killed more than 100 people and left many in its wake without basic necessities. For those of us who live in countries where our cities, states, and federal governments have the resources to tackle complex emergencies, the return to normal life, though unimaginable now, will slowly unfurl.

But for the millions who live in the Western Caribbean nations where governments are incapable of robust disaster management and mitigation, returning to normal is nearly impossible. Nowhere is this truer than in rural Haiti.  Grassroots International works with many partners and allies in Haiti where rural peasants have been out-of-sight and out-of-mind for successive Port-au-Prince centered administrations. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, once again these rural farmers and fishers, while seemingly invisible to the state’s powerful, play a critical role in the country’s ability to recover from yet another disaster.  In Haiti, the southern departments—Grand Anse, Nippes, South, Southeast and West –bore the brunt of the storm. According to Haiti’s agriculture minister, these were the same departments hit by Tropical Storm Isaac in late August (just three months ago) flooding homes, farms, and destroying irrigation networks.  Peasants who managed to re-plant following Isaac watched as Sandy destroyed their farms anew. Livestock that survived Isaac were either washed or blown away by Sandy. Flooding marooned many rural communities, leaving them inaccessible.   Now, Haitian peasants and small producers are facing an uncertain, hungry winter.  The minister of agriculture estimates 70 percent of the harvest has been lost. Those who borrowed money to re-plant after Tropical Storm Isaac now cannot reap a harvest in order to pay off their debts or support their families, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Peasants who were in the process of rehabilitating their farms are now back to square one. Likewise, Haitian fisher folk lost their boats and fishing equipment to Sandy.  2012 has proven to be a very difficult year for Haitian peasants and small producers in the north as well. Small farmers in the north and northeast faced a debilitating drought in the spring, which severely reduced their harvest for that planting season. This further exacerbates the lack of food, along with the southern departments’ peasants and small producers have been hit by two storms in three months.  As Haitian peasant organizations proceed with their assessment of Sandy’s damage, it’s becoming clear that Haiti is moving from a possible food crisis to an actual food crisis. Days after the government of Haiti declared a one-month-long state of emergency in the country, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs  in Haiti announced that 1.2 million people are facing food insecurity because of Sandy. That number includes hundreds of thousands of small farmers and producers who have lost everything in 2012 who now face a hungry future without support in the form of seeds, tools, and livestock to continue their livelihoods.  The needs are significant, but so, too, is the will to respond. One of our partners in Haiti, the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), has already developed a plan for immediate intervention after an extensive assessment of the needs of its members. MPP’s plan includes rapid distribution of seed, seedling, livestock and fishing material to approximately 21,000 peasant families and planting 150,000 forest trees to prevent soil erosion. For the peasants and small producers who lost everything in 2012, MPP’s support would help them plant in November and December.   However, MPP’s plan can’t be actualized without the support of allies and supporters, like you. To help support their work and rebuilding, please donate here.  Photo by: HL/ HaïtiLibre

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