Honduras: Flash Appeal 2008
Beginning on 13 October, Tropical Depression 16 caused widespread flooding and devastation throughout Honduras. Heavy rains, which doubled the average level of precipitation for the month in just over two weeks, caused the Ulúa and Choluteca Rivers to overflow in the north and south, respectively.
Flooding and landslides swept through 17 of the country’s 18 departments, affecting over 271 000 people, of which nearly 58 000 suffered total losses to shelter and livelihoods. Conditions deteriorated further as Tropical Depression 43 passed through eastern Honduras between 23 and 25 October. Key infrastructure, such as roads, and water and sanitation systems, was severely impaired. Thousands were forced to abandon their homes, leaving behind their personal and productive assets and livelihoods. Extensive areas of cropland were destroyed, which means the depletion of food stocks, labour opportunities and income, against a backdrop of widespread poverty and soaring food costs.
In 2008, minimum wage covered merely 64 percent of household food needs. Support is urgently needed to ensure that timely assistance reaches populations most affected by the crisis. The 2008 Honduras Flash Appeal was launched on 29 October to mobilize funding to respond to the lifesaving and early recovery needs of families most in jeopardy.
Challenges facing food security and agriculture
Agriculture provides the primary source of food security, income and livelihoods to families in the flood-affected areas. Honduras is highly prone to recurrent natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, drought and the El Niño and La Niña phenomena. These shocks continually affect the national economy and deepen pockets of food insecurity among the rural populations that rely on agriculture for subsistence.
Prior to Tropical Depressions 16 and 43, soils were already saturated from heavy rainfall, which increased crop losses in main production areas. Floods and landslides damaged over 72 000 hectares of agricultural land, on which the country depends for its national supply of staple foods, such as rice, maize, plantains and beans. Over 10 000 small-scale farmers in 12 departments suffered total losses to their annual crops. The floods also caused serious damage to permanent crops, such as plantain, cocoa and coffee. In the west of the country, many small producers, including coffee producers, saw their livelihoods destroyed by the landslides.
Pastures were inundated, reducing available grazing land. Small animal species, such as pigs and poultry, which constitute a primary source of livelihood in Honduras, will be more prone to disease. Small-scale aquaculture also suffered the loss of fish, such as tilapia. The degree of damage to the agriculture sector is expected to deplete the food supply and income of agriculture-dependant families, who will experience increased hardship in meeting rising market costs to supplement their food basket. Rehabilitation of the sector is paramount to increasing the food security of the affected population and to strengthening their resilience to future shocks.
Within the framework of the 2008 Honduras Flash Appeal, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has appealed for USD 3.1 million to support Government efforts and the people of Honduras to restore food production and livelihoods. FAO’s proposed interventions aim to:
- restore crop and horticultural production of small-scale farmers through provision of basic inputs, such as seeds, seedlings, tools, fertilizer and storage facilities;
- safeguard the health of livestock through vaccination campaigns and distribution of forage seed and fertilizer;
- rehabilitate the irrigation network to ensure access to water in time for the upcoming cropping season; and
- rehabilitate crop and fish seed-producing institutions to ensure availability of seed for crop and aquaculture farmers.