Destruction and uncertainty hit smallholder communities in Honduras and Guatemala after Hurricane Eta

Written By:Gabriela Tyggum
Date:12 November 2020
Country:Guatemala, Honduras
Theme:Nature, Social Situation
Destruction and uncertainty hit smallholder communities in Honduras and Guatemala after Hurricane Eta

“On Wednesday evening, strong water streams coming from the flooded river of Higuito destroyed parts of my house and farm”, explains Francisco Monroy, a smallholder coffee farmer from Ocotepeque, Honduras. “Our harvest was ready in two weeks”, he says, while standing in the destroyed leftovers of his farm. “We’re barely left with a roof over our heads”. Besides the physical damage caused by Hurricane Eta, Monroy lost most of his coffee and lime plantations. Luckily, no one in his family got hurt.

On November 3rd, Hurricane Eta raged into the coastlines of Central America, reaching the northern parts of Honduras and Guatemala. Heavy rainfalls and catastrophic winds caused by the tropical storm brought flash flooding, landslides and mudslides. Many of HRNS’ project regions in this area are affected as well. “We are very concerned about the wellbeing of farming families and surrounding communities we at HRNS support”, says Pablo Ruiz, HRNS Co-Country Manager in Guatemala. “We’ve received many phone calls and messages from farmers telling us about home destructions and loss of harvests. We are currently connecting with these areas to find out, how we can support best.” Some of the hard-hit departments include Copán, Ocotepeque and Lempira in Honduras, and Huehuetenango in Guatemala. More than 1.6 million people have been affected by the hurricane in Honduras and Guatemala (Source: CONRED and COPECO). “We fear that families will struggle with immediate food insecurity, severe harvest loss, loss of income and might need to rebuild houses. Wellbeing, food security and shelter are the most urgent topics right now”, says Ruiz. Roads are flooded away or impassable, whole villages are flooded and basic infrastructures like water and electricity are oftentimes interrupted. Reaching remote families is a real struggle during this time.

“Weather conditions and rain patterns seemed very favorable” says Monroy. “Crops had sufficient water to grow and coffee plants were blooming impressively”. Just like Francisco, many farmers in the region thought this would be the perfect harvest to bounce back from the effects of COVID-19. Instead, it turned out to be the complete opposite. A loss of hope and desperate times for many farming families in the region.

For smallholder farming families, COVID-19 had already intensified poverty and financial hardships. The lack of healthcare, market disruptions and difficulties in accessing food, are some of the many battle’s smallholders were already fighting. Regardless of what the challenge might be, agriculture production and crop cycles must always go on. Smallholders knew they needed to protect and work towards that one thing that would bring back some of the cash flow lost during the pandemic; their upcoming harvest.

Guatemala was also hit by Hurricane Eta. Alexander Hernández, a young smallholder from a project in Huehuetenango, also stated, “at least 5% of my harvest will be lost due to the mudslides in my farm. Many of my family’s coffee plants and banana trees were completely destroyed”.

HRNS remains supportive of smallholder farming families

HRNS is committed to help smallholder farming families affected by this catastrophe. Ruiz explains; “Country officials and climate experts foresee large aftermath effects. Our aim is to assess the urgent needs of project beneficiaries and assist them to restore everything that’s lost”.

HRNS is currently conducting a survey to identify where smallholders stand in three leading areas; 1) livelihoods, 2) farming and agriculture and 3) infrastructure. “Through this survey, we expect to understand their current reality after the hurricane. This includes assessing the number of homes destroyed, food security, percentage of harvest lost and infrastructural damages at every level of the value chain”, states Ruiz. HRNS is already outlining alternative ways of support and is in the process of developing an emergency response to ensure that these families receive the help they need.

HRNS thanks each and every one of its donors for their continuous support and compromise during these challenging times. “We are committed to staying positive in the midst of this crisis and choose to focus on the opportunities we have ahead”, says Ruiz.