Harvest season had just begun for Moisés García and his family when Hurricane Eta hit Copán, Honduras causing coffee picking to stop, coffee cherries to fall and parts of their bean production to be harmed.

Weeks later, Hurricane Iota made landfall, bringing heavy rain and life-threatening flooding that damaged their home. The fallout of these two back-to-back hurricanes in Honduras and Guatemala hit HRNS project regions and affected most of the smallholder families HRNS works with. “We are taking immediate action to support smallholder families impacted by this tragedy. They urgently need our support,” said Pablo Ruiz, Co-Country Manager of HRNS Central America.

Just two weeks after Hurricane Eta brought flash flooding and displaced thousands, Central America was pummeled with a second tropical storm – Hurricane Iota -, leaving within its wake, a devastating path of destruction.

“After days of non-stop rain, we were forced to evacuate” says García. “My family and I sought shelter at my brother’s home. It wasn’t until last week that we were able to go back and see the damage. 40% of our farm was lost.”

Massive destruction caused by flash flooding and landslides in the Garcia’s coffee farm and household after Hurricane Iota.

Hurricane Iota brought stronger winds and torrential rains that led to additional destruction across the region. While smallholder families across Guatemala and Honduras were still struggling with COVID-19, Eta and Iota further aggravated the disaster. A recent survey made by HRNS’ regional office showed that Hurricane Iota intensified most of the impacts caused by Hurricane Eta, particularly in agriculture and household infrastructure.

In comparison to Guatemala, the damage caused by Iota in Honduras was much stronger due to the storm’s path. After Iota, the number of smallholder families that reported infrastructural damage and a higher level of destruction in roads increased by 10% and 48% respectively. The same applies to the impacts on agriculture and crops production. After hurricane Eta, 29% of the surveyed smallholders reported that none of their crops were damaged. This number decreased to 7% after Hurricane Iota, meaning that 93% of smallholders had at least one of their crops affected. 90% of smallholder families have reported damage in their coffee farm, including a high percentage of dropped cherries, defoliation, and landslides that have washed entire farms away. Households were damaged, and food insecurity continues to be a major worry due to the impacts in coffee, timber and basic grains.

Destruction caused from landslides in Western Honduras

Affected Coffee Farms in Western Guatemala – Defoliation and Fallen Cherries

HRNS is committed to support smallholder families  

“We are working to mitigate the impacts this catastrophe has had on smallholder’s livelihoods”, says Ruiz.

“Our emergency response supports smallholders in two areas: food security and infrastructural damage. As part of the first phase, we’ve given 1,500 smallholder families access to nonperishable food through close collaboration with Plan Trifinio and have begun to budget financial support to restore affected household construction.”

HRNS is currently working with a relief fund provided by International Coffee Partners (ICP) and additional donor support to assist affected families in the hardest hit departments: Huehuetenango in Guatemala and Ocotepeque and Copán in Honduras.

HRNS is already working remotely with farmer organizations to create “emergency committees” to support its members during different shocks (pandemic, hurricanes etc.). Part of the emergency response plan also includes working with smallholders so they can improve and incorporate new soil conservation practices in order to better prepare for heavy rains.

While country officials and climate experts still foresee large aftermath effects, HRNS is monitoring families’ current situation and remains active to assess their most urgent needs.

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