Fishing is one of the most important local industries on the island of Île à Vache in Haiti, but Hurricane Matthew dealt it a serious blow. Our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, visits the fishermen on the island to assess the damage.
Another early start and another day of walking. The morning is occupied with meetings, and we are temporarily using the orphanage office for access to electricity when the fumigators arrive. We head to the container to sort out some of the space as we may have a shipment coming in next week. Then it is off to Grande Plaine.
Calise has started the layout of the foundations for Jean Nexon’s house. For the first time in all our visits, Dieulita comes to greet us and engages with us. For some people, they don’t need much to give them that boost or lift; for others, it can take a lot if you have lost hope. For this family, a new house was far beyond their imaginings. They will also prepare the garden for planting, and we will try to give them a real boost to their income. Jean Nexon is asleep on the ‘porch’ and looks fairly good.
We move on to visit Mai Joseph, who lost a bakery business in the storm, and hold another conversation there about house repairs. We also ask for prices on the repair of the bakery. It is a prime source of income for the family and maybe the cost of repairing isn’t that high. They are probably conserving their funds to rebuild the house. If they get help with their house, then maybe some of that money could go to getting the oven back up and running. Mai’s mother is to give us a breakdown of the repair costs on Tuesday next. Most of the materials are locally sourced.
We next head to Figuier and the fishermen’s village. Their new beachfront is in good use, but shade is hard to find from the loss of all the trees, and there will be an increased risk of erosion here now. The fishermen tell us about the time and cost of repairing their nets.
Over 123 nets were lost in the storm and, with each net costing upwards of US$600, it is an expensive hit.
Fishermen build up their nets over years of work and shared ownership, until they have the funds to own individual nets. We don’t know exactly how we will resolve this issue, but fishing is one of the areas on our recovery plan.
We can now walk along the beach to the next village. Next stop is La Hatte, but, first, a small side-road wander to find a cold juice and water. It is hot and there’s not much wind, an indication that rains might be on the way. Like the rest of the northern hemisphere, we are heading into our winter; it should start to cool down in the evenings to a moderate 23°C (73.4°F), but there is no sign of the heat abating for now.
La Hatte has already started clean-up, and people are bringing in building materials to start reconstructing their homes. The red Haven t-shirt attracts requests for help with housing and for assistance. We move on towards Trois Milieu and Kaykok.
Along the new beach, we pass a small cruiser washed up on the grass and, at a neighbouring farm; there is now enough sand for them to claim beachfront. Agronomist Paul takes us through the nursery project they have underway. They have 1,000 seedlings to be nurtured for distribution as part of a reforestation project sponsored by a British Virgin Islands group, Bon Samaritan IAV. They have a clean well on the farm that is only four feet deep and gives perfectly good water. It is an object of much admiration, showing the high value we place on clean water sources.
Farmers are preparing their land along the roadside in Trois Milieu, but our lovely prepared gardens bear no evidence of the year’s work. It is a complete restart.
In Kaykok, we head up the mountain to Cachiman. It is a u-shaped mountain ridge, protecting the mangroves and inland lake nestled in the valley below. It is normally covered in heavy vegetation, so much so that finding old paths can be difficult.
Now, we can see everything: paths and houses on the far hill; the community pump below in the valley; the hundreds of trees stripped from the hillside. Majestic coconut trees with heads bowed and limp are dying where they stand. They will be cut down when needed for building materials, but, until then, will stand witness to Hurricane Matthew’s passing. If you removed all of the trees that have been killed by the hurricane, there would be barren hill.
Local organisation EDEM are already working in this area on fitting roofs to houses, and new tin glints in the sunshine: it’s a message of hope and recovery. It is a hope that Haven aims to bring to more zones on Île à Vache with the repairs programme we have underway.