In Nicaragua alone, hurricanes “Iota” and “Eta” in November 2020 left 1.5 million people suffering their devastating effects. With an emergency aid project over the next six months, SWISSAID will be supporting families who were already living in extreme poverty before the disaster – and who are now struggling to survive.
To improve living conditions for poor smallholder families who, as a result of the hurricanes, have suffered great damage to their homes. They have almost entirely lost their harvest and the soil has become infertile due to flooding. They will receive temporary staple foods and will be supported in resuming their own food production and regaining food security.
While for most of us life goes on (even if coronavirus means this must be only at home), many people in Nicaragua are denied even that possibility: in November 2020, the country was hit by two devastating hurricanes. The extent of the destruction is still difficult to determine today. One thing is certain; the catastrophe only worsens the living conditions of families who were already living in extreme poverty. Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences for the country and its population will be felt for several years to come.
Harvest destroyed – hunger threatens
SWISSAID works with more than 8,000 families in Nicaragua in a regionally concentrated and networked manner. At least 80 percent of them are affected to a greater or lesser extent by the hurricanes: fences, stables and wells have been destroyed. 50-70 percent of the corn crops have been lost. Cultivated rice and growing beans have, for the most part, been completely destroyed. Cacao trees also suffered severe damage; they will only yield half as much as usual. Coffee plants were in bloom and bearing their first fruits – wind and rain have carried them away.
The food security of smallholder families balances on a knife edge. Their harvest is not only the basis of what ends up on their plates every day, but the money they earn selling the surplus at market is also their only income. 90 percent of the corn and bean harvest in Nicaragua is produced by small farming families. In other words, there is a lack of food. Hunger is imminent.
Seeds for future food are missing
The loss of the harvest also means that no new seed is available to the smallholder families. Also affected is the municipal seed banks, which would usually supply community members with seed. There is no certain access to seed for next year. And there is no money to buy seeds from third parties.
The heavy flooding has severely damaged the soil; the fertile layer has been removed. The smallholder families will need a lot of time to replenish the soil. They already have their hands full repairing damage to houses, facilities and materials. Many of them live outside or in emergency shelters. There the health risks increase.
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As you sow, so shall you reap
With great support from local partners, SWISSAID helps where it is most needed. We provide material for contructing roofs and help to rebuild houses. Families who have lost their entire harvest receive staple foods until the next harvest is due. This means they can dedicate themselves to agro-ecological work instead of having to fight each day for bare survival – and the next harvest can become a real prospect.
Time is pressing: in June, it will be the dry season. If the seeds are not sown soon, the next harvest will be lost. That is why we provide seeds and help to patch up or build drip irrigation systems. In a few months the smallholder families will then be able to provide for themselves with food from their land again.