Presbyterian Hunger Program visits farmers
August 8, 2017
Anyone doubting whether climate change exists should pay a visit to Haiti. That’s the assessment from Valery Nodem, the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s international associate, who recently visited the country, nearly eight months after Hurricane Matthew.
The Category 4 hurricane struck Haiti on Oct. 4, packing winds in excess of 145 miles per hour. As many as 1.1 million people were affected by the storm and nearly 600 people are known to have died, but authorities believe the number is likely three times higher. Hundreds of homes, roads and businesses were destroyed.
“Since the hurricane hit, hundreds of people are still waiting for help to come,” Nodem said. “There are a lot of mountains in the region and support agencies cannot reach some of these rural communities by vehicle. They have to park and then walk to the villages.”
Haiti was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when Matthew struck, setting recovery back years. And a recent rainy season washed away rebuilding efforts.
“It’s really hard for them to feel like they are on top of the recovery effort,” Nodem said. “The normal rain they are having now, any kind of rain, is killing people and it is heartbreaking and devastating. The hurricane just happened and the new rain is destroying crops.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partners in Haiti to provide seeds so farmers can quickly grow beans and vegetables that don’t require a lot of growing time.
“It’s one thing to hear about climate change, but this trip really helped me see the reality of it. If you really want to see climate change in action, Haiti is the place to go. The country is almost completely surrounded by water and the people are very likely to be impacted by any change in the weather,” Nodem said. “The rain affects food production and that is reflected on the price of food in the market. There is huge inflation and people are talking about the continuing jump in food prices.”
The day before Nodem arrived in Haiti, he said, the price of gas jumped 20 percent and there is fear that the impact will also be felt in all forms of transportation around the country.
“Realities like these are why we understand climate change to be a root cause of hunger and poverty and why we include work to ameliorate climate effects as part of our work to alleviate hunger,” said Rebecca Barnes, coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Nodem visited with PHP partners as well as a number of farms that were underwater.
“One farmer told me he was extremely discouraged as a result of Hurricane Matthew. There was a time when Haiti would see a major hurricane every 10 to 20 years. Now they expect something like this every five years. It seems to be happening a lot faster,” he said. “This farmer had recently borrowed a lot of money and reinvested it in food production, buying a significant amount of seeds and paying a number of workers to help. They were almost ready when the latest rains washed their work away. The farmer now wonders how he is going to pay back the loans, feed his family and send his children to school.”
Nodem believes PC(USA) support for Haiti should go beyond the hurricane, adding that climate change has only made things worse with constant flooding.
“What I saw was a little bit of rain can destroy food production for thousands and thousands of people. They have to find new ways of living in order to survive,” he said. “The next step is for us to keep the country in our prayers, keep our Haitian brothers and sisters in our hearts and continue to support them through PDA and the work we do. Unfortunately, this will happen again.”
Rick Jones, Mission Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Hunger Program – Haiti
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Dear God, we pray for the victims of the destruction in Haiti and thank you for allowing us to serve our neighbors in need. Amen.