Downpours Ruin Spring Harvest in Beleaguered Southwest Haiti

Flooding in southwest Haiti has wiped out as much as 80 percent of the spring harvest in a beleaguered region that is nearly completely dependent on farming, officials said Friday.

About five days of rain saturated swaths of the Caribbean region and triggered flooding across southwest Haiti, drowning crops and causing at least four deaths in the area that was overwhelmed by Hurricane Matthew last year.

Enzo Di Taranto, the head of Haiti’s U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the destructive downpours that finally tapered off on Monday “certainly came at a very bad time.”

The rugged region’s farmers were given seeds after Matthew hit in October so they could start reaping corn and beans now. But the rains that tapered off Monday have ruined the harvest or left gravel and other debris scattered on cultivated fields where planting was set to take place.

“Nature isn’t giving the people any slack,” said Hervil Cherubin, country director for Heifer International, an international nonprofit working with farmers in Haiti.

Following Matthew’s destruction, Haitian and international agricultural officials said it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically. In the Grand-Anse department, nearly all crops and half the livestock were destroyed by Matthew, according to the World Food Program.

When the hurricane hit, the southwest area was just starting to recover from a drought that had decreased crop production by half.

Cherubin said Haiti needed to learn from countries such as Bangladesh that face heavy rains and flooding each year but mitigate the risks with watershed management, reforestation and other strategies.

“We can’t do emergency work every day,” he said.

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