After Hurricane Matthew, WFP and FAO protect seeds as planting begins in Haiti
Welcome to La Biche, a small community of fishermen and smallholder farmers living on the shore of a white sand Caribbean beach, only 15 minutes south from Les Cayes in the Sud department of Haiti.
The first thing that strikes a visitor upon arrival is the fact that no fishing boats are anywhere to be seen. La Biche, in the municipality of Gelee, was in the path of Hurricane Matthew. It struck the coast of the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere with brute force, sinking or destroying the boats that once provided livelihoods to many families in La Biche.
The other striking fact is that most of the remaining inhabitants of what used to be a thriving village of 520 people are either children or elderly people. Young inhabitants are leaving in search of temporary work wherever they can find it after the hurricane destroyed their homes and livelihoods.
In the immediate aftermath of Matthew the community was assisted with per household monthly rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) together with one of its implementing partners, FONDEFH. Across the worst hit areas, the first wave of response has now reached over 800,000 Haitians in hundreds of communities, such as La Biche. However, people are still worried — and they have reasons to be.
The planting season of rice, maize and pulses is now starting and many of the affected small-scale and subsistence farmers have lost everything from seeds to agricultural tools. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has started a wide response to mitigate the problem, but in this dire situation some desperate farmers may resort to consuming their seeds that are reserved for planting to feed their families after the next harvest.
To address this issue, WFP is working jointly with FAO to coordinate a seed protection activity for productive assets in Grand Anse, Sud and Nippes departments.
To prevent the consumption of seeds provided by FAO, WFP is providing a seed protection food ration to food insecure households ahead of FAO’s seed distributions and is also helping support with distributions of seeds in hard-to-reach communes. Farmers´ rehabilitation needs will also be included in the upcoming WFP and FAO cash-for-work programming.
In the meantime let’s follow the story of the survivors of La Biche one month after the storm:
Leger Dieumane has three children and was a small-scale rice farmer until Hurricane Matthew struck. She lost everything including her breadfruit trees (Abre veritable or The Real Tree in Haitian Creole). Madame Dieumane asked to be pictured holding a flower from one of the fallen breadfruit trees near her home. The flour produced by the fruit of this tree — now is widely unavailable — is a staple food in many Haitian regions, providing an important source of carbohydrates and vitamin C.
Rodreny Chery is still ready to farm his plot of land despite the fact that he has lost everything. His 28-year-old son is out searching for a job to help. “I have never seen something like this in all my life. I have nothing left but the potato plants that the storm spared, and it will not be enough for all of us. Now I really don’t know what to do.”
Adeline Charles lost her daughter two months ago, before the hurricane hit, leaving her looking after her two grandchildren: Flor, 2, and 2-month-old Wilgainse. “I now share my home with them, my daughters, and four more grandchildren.”
Jean Mars Douijon also has three children, Durie, 25, Andie, 22, and Malaica, 6. He decided not to plant this year as he doesn’t yet have the money. Jean Mars instead has resorted to cutting wood in hopes of selling it and making some money to help his family. “The problem is that now timber is not in short supply,” he says. “Everybody has dozens of fallen trees near their homes.”
Angelita Magal has three children, Nicole, 30, Jarinole, 27, and Jacson, 25, searching for work outside the community. “With the help of the community I was able to repair parts of my home, but other parts are gone for good.”
Leger Jean Michelet was in the community when the storm reached shore. “The sea crossed the village and the wind pounded the homes and our crops for seven hours straight into the night. We were lucky nobody died, but everyone is traumatized.”
You can help by making a donation to the World Food Programme.