Update on Hurricane Damage in Windward Islands
From 30 to 31 October, Hurricane Tomas struck a number of Caribbean islands, causing major damage to homes and physical infrastructure across the area.
The scale of destruction on Saint-Lucia was unprecedented in the country’s history with damage estimated at USD$200 million. Landslides and flooding caused severe damage to infrastructure and water systems. Banana production in the area was also severely impacted with losses up to 95 percent.
In St Vincent, over 2,000 acres of bananas were destroyed and damage to the overall agricultural sector was estimated at USD$67 million. More than 1,000 people were forced into shelters due to damage to homes. Dominica, though far from the eye of the hurricane, also sustained extensive losses to the banana crop.
Cornelius Lynch is a Fairtrade banana farmer and Fairtrade Officer for the banana cooperative, WINFA. Shortly after the hurricane he reported: "The entire banana industry is destroyed and would require at least six months to begin to return to normalcy….our farmers have lost everything and we would need all the assistance available as we work toward recovery."
Though many farmers in the area have crop insurance, it often does not cover hurricane damage and so many farmers are left with little recourse. WINFA not only lost their standing crops, but also lost productive capacity for the next six months. Loss of earnings is estimated at USD$13.4 million for the 2,300 affected farmers.
Despite these severe challenges WINFA is battling hard to secure a decent future for its farmers. The organization, with the help of FLO’s local Liaison Officer, has drafted several project proposals and sent them to donor agencies. This will hopefully provide vital funds for the current situation and for a rehabilitation programme. WINFA is also looking into alternative crops which can help them reduce vulnerability and provide new market opportunities. Possibilities include coffee, herbs and spices, essential oils, sweet potatoes, other fruits and root crops.
"The courage and resilience of WINFA’s farmers and leadership has been exemplary," says Julie Francoeur, FLO’s regional coordinator for the area. "Tomas has opened a window of opportunity that many of WINFA’s leaders hope they can take full advantage of, in order to reshape their agricultural endeavours to something closer to sustainable agriculture."