Getting back to work after Ivan
Stories from Grenadian farmers, fishers helped by FAO
St. George's, Grenada – Roland Baldeo's windowless government office may look ordinary but on the day before Hurricane Ivan, which all but flattened the island in September 2004, it was the scene of high drama.
Mr Baldeo is the country's only fisheries technology officer. He was also the radio officer who used the stack of ship-to-shore radios that still sits next to his desk to call the fishing fleet home in the face of the worst storm to hit the island since 1955.
"On Monday morning, we put out the call," he recalls. "The boats came in and the owners tried to put them in a safe place. On Tuesday night it hit."
Although no fishers died, the fishing sector didn't fare so well. Winds up to 200 km/h caused US$2.5 million in damage to boats and shore facilities. Even worse, it put 2 500 fulltime fishers out of work for six months, separating them from a lucrative livelihood pulling yellowfin tuna, sailfish, marlin and swordfish from the Caribbean Sea.
"Resources in the sea are always there. Hurricanes don't bother them," says fisher Alvin Searles, who received FAO help repairing his boat. "We should be the first ones back to work, bringing in food for the nation and fish for export."
Fishers and officials talk of building storm harbours and hurricane-proof boat sheds. And Mr Baldeo's office no longer has to double as a radio shack. Thanks to the generosity of donors, FAO was able to supply new radio equipment that extends the range of alerts. Grenada will soon have operators at a new facility on the harbour front, monitoring the fleet 24 hours a day, so that the fishing sector will minimize damage when the next big storm hits.
Reaching the poor
FAO tried to help the poor shack community of Morne Longue by introducing 30 residents to chicken raising. Working through a local non-governmental organization, the Organization provided residents with lumber and roofing to build small coops and a "starter kit" of 30 chicks, feed and training.
Meryl Chasteau, who lives with her two sons, found she liked keeping chickens. "They gave us training in the church down the road. I took care of them and when I sold them I could see there was profit in them," she says, adding that she bought more chicks with some of the money she made.
In Lud Bur district, big vegetable fields cover the hillside. Extension officer Michael Francis describes the post-hurricane scene: "These farmers struggle to make it, so at the time when everything was down – they lost their houses, clothing, school books – they didn't have money for seeds." With donor support FAO provided two tonnes of seed and 130 000 vegetable seedlings to island farmers.
The hot, fertile valley of Belvedere grows bananas for export. Ivan flattened the valley. But Augustine Charles, with 20 years’ experience in the business and 20 acres of prime land, was undaunted. FAO helped with plants and labour to clear the land of fallen trees and today Mr Charles has big stalks of bananas, wrapped carefully in plastic against pests, ready for harvesting.
The downed trees proved a windfall for new two-man businesses that cut the trees into timber on the spot, using chainsaws and special equipment to ensure boards come out a uniform thickness. With funds from Canada and the United States of America, FAO provided training, safety equipment and chainsaws to the government, which rents the gear out to entrepreneurs.
As the FAO reporting mission left Belvedere, a young chainsaw operator stopped his work to run after the group. "Do you know where we can buy one of these chainsaws?" he asks.
The National Disaster Management Agency has been created to lead official preparedness efforts on the island.
"Our work at the agency is to tell people what they can do for themselves, for example, what kind of food reserves they can keep in the house during hurricane season," says National Disaster Coordinator Sylvan McIntyre. "I tell people mitigation is an investment. Each sector, including agriculture and fisheries, must create a preparedness plan. But up to this day a lot of people haven't done it."
FAO's comparative advantage
St George's, Grenada – Although most disaster relief comes directly from donor countries to affected governments, there are compelling reasons to channel help for agriculture, fisheries and forestry through FAO.
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