A decade of crop loss from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

  • In this Oct. 10, 2016 photo, banana and coconut trees are bent and broken along a southern coast road near the town of Roche-a-Bateau, Haiti, left behind by Hurricane Matthew. Re-planting vegetable crops can be done relatively quickly and rice fields begin to recover as floodwaters recede, but the loss of mature fruit trees that families nurtured for a generation is a staggering blow.

    In this Oct. 10, 2016 photo, banana and coconut trees are bent and broken along a southern coast road near the town of Roche-a-Bateau, Haiti, left behind by Hurricane Matthew. Re-planting vegetable crops can be done relatively quickly and rice fields begin to recover as floodwaters recede, but the loss of mature fruit trees that families nurtured for a generation is a staggering blow. Associated Press

  • Residents stand amidst the rubble of destroyed homes as they watch a U.S. military helicopter land to deliver USAID relief supplies in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew.

    Residents stand amidst the rubble of destroyed homes as they watch a U.S. military helicopter land to deliver USAID relief supplies in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew. Associated Press

  • In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, a farmer dries salvaged black beans and yams after Hurricane Matthew in Beaumont, a district of Jeremie, Haiti. Grapefruit, bananas, and avocado trees were wiped out along with important root crops such as yams, which were inundated with water or damaged by the whipping wind, according to Elancie Moise, an agronomist and senior Haiti agriculture ministry official.

    In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, a farmer dries salvaged black beans and yams after Hurricane Matthew in Beaumont, a district of Jeremie, Haiti. Grapefruit, bananas, and avocado trees were wiped out along with important root crops such as yams, which were inundated with water or damaged by the whipping wind, according to Elancie Moise, an agronomist and senior Haiti agriculture ministry official. Associated Press

  • Coconut palms toppled by Hurricane Matthew lay in the countryside near Jeremie, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Re-planting vegetable crops can be done relatively quickly and rice fields begin to recover as floodwaters recede, but the loss of mature fruit trees that families nurtured for a generation is a staggering blow.

    Coconut palms toppled by Hurricane Matthew lay in the countryside near Jeremie, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Re-planting vegetable crops can be done relatively quickly and rice fields begin to recover as floodwaters recede, but the loss of mature fruit trees that families nurtured for a generation is a staggering blow. Associated Press

  • In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, Maniki Cadet, 67, works in a field removing dead banana trees and shoring up the foundations of others, near Les Cayes, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. There are widespread reports of rising prices in the outdoor markets that line the region’s rural roads and of people struggling to find food.

    In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, Maniki Cadet, 67, works in a field removing dead banana trees and shoring up the foundations of others, near Les Cayes, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. There are widespread reports of rising prices in the outdoor markets that line the region’s rural roads and of people struggling to find food. Associated Press

  • In this Oct. 13, 2016 photo, fallen trees are scattered around homes damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in the mountains of southwestern Haiti. Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than 1 million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing.

    In this Oct. 13, 2016 photo, fallen trees are scattered around homes damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in the mountains of southwestern Haiti. Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than 1 million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing. Associated Press

  • This Oct. 10, 2016 photo shows salvaged beans, corn, and other harvested crops drying in the street outside damaged homes in Les Anglais, Haiti. Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than 1 million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing.

    This Oct. 10, 2016 photo shows salvaged beans, corn, and other harvested crops drying in the street outside damaged homes in Les Anglais, Haiti. Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than 1 million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing. Associated Press

  • In this Oct. 10, 2016 photo, a man unloads bags of damaged corn from a donkey, to dry in Les Anglais, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. International aid groups say the widespread crop damage will require an influx of seed packs for replanting once the immediate needs of emergency water, food and medicine are met.

    In this Oct. 10, 2016 photo, a man unloads bags of damaged corn from a donkey, to dry in Les Anglais, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. International aid groups say the widespread crop damage will require an influx of seed packs for replanting once the immediate needs of emergency water, food and medicine are met. Associated Press

  • In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, rice farmer Dumanoir Poison salvages what he can from his flooded field near Les Cayes, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. On the outskirts of Les Cayes, more than 90 percent of crops were lost and the fishing industry was “paralyzed” as material and equipment washed away, according to the World Food Program.

    In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, rice farmer Dumanoir Poison salvages what he can from his flooded field near Les Cayes, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew. On the outskirts of Les Cayes, more than 90 percent of crops were lost and the fishing industry was “paralyzed” as material and equipment washed away, according to the World Food Program. Associated Press

  • Residents line up for food after Hurricane Matthew in Anse D'Hainault, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. Nearly a week after the storm smashed into southwestern Haiti, some communities along the southern coast have yet to receive any assistance, leaving residents who have lost their homes and virtually all of their belongings struggling to find shelter and potable water.

    Residents line up for food after Hurricane Matthew in Anse D'Hainault, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. Nearly a week after the storm smashed into southwestern Haiti, some communities along the southern coast have yet to receive any assistance, leaving residents who have lost their homes and virtually all of their belongings struggling to find shelter and potable water. Associated Press

  • People try to get off a boat carrying aid as national police arrive to secure the vessel carrying supplies as it docks in Jeremie, Haiti, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew hit the area. The U.N. envoy for Haiti says the impoverished Caribbean nation is facing "a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation" with 1.4 million people needing immediate help.

    People try to get off a boat carrying aid as national police arrive to secure the vessel carrying supplies as it docks in Jeremie, Haiti, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew hit the area. The U.N. envoy for Haiti says the impoverished Caribbean nation is facing "a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation" with 1.4 million people needing immediate help. Associated Press

  • Town residents gather to watch as U.S. military personnel unload USAID relief supplies from a helicopter in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew.

    Town residents gather to watch as U.S. military personnel unload USAID relief supplies from a helicopter in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew. Associated Press

  • Women carry laundry across a stream running through fields and fruit trees, in a village outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Hurricane Matthew's winds uprooted coconut trees, shattered banana plantations and flattened vegetable fields across the southwest. In some coastal towns, flooding even carried away livestock.

    Women carry laundry across a stream running through fields and fruit trees, in a village outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Hurricane Matthew's winds uprooted coconut trees, shattered banana plantations and flattened vegetable fields across the southwest. In some coastal towns, flooding even carried away livestock. Associated Press

  • A little boy is held by his mother and a nurse as he receives treatment for cholera at the small and overwhelmed health clinic in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Along with widespread hunger and the loss of crops, livestock and fishing boats and gear, authorities warn that the waterborne disease of cholera appears to be on the rise, making delivery of water purification supplies a high priority as officials consider how to help the region over the longer term.

    A little boy is held by his mother and a nurse as he receives treatment for cholera at the small and overwhelmed health clinic in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Along with widespread hunger and the loss of crops, livestock and fishing boats and gear, authorities warn that the waterborne disease of cholera appears to be on the rise, making delivery of water purification supplies a high priority as officials consider how to help the region over the longer term. Associated Press

  • A U.S. military helicopter takes off after dropping off USAID relief supplies, in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew.

    A U.S. military helicopter takes off after dropping off USAID relief supplies, in Anse d'Hainault, southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Two U.S. military helicopters touched down briefly on Friday morning to deliver drinking water and saline to the remote town, which has seen a spike in cholera cases after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Matthew. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/14/2016 5:13 PM

LES CAYES, Haiti -- As Hurricane Matthew roared across southwestern Haiti, Joselien Jean-Baptiste huddled with his family while the wind whipped at his little house. When it was finally safe to venture outside at dawn the 60-year-old farmer realized his troubles had only just begun.

The storm knocked down part of the house where he lives with his wife and six children outside of Les Cayes, leaving only a small section of corrugated metal still intact. But that was the least of his problems. The field he had worked for 25 years was a scene of violent upheaval. His rice was swamped with river water; the mango and breadfruit trees were split like matchsticks; his corn flattened or torn from the ground by fierce winds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It is going to take us a long, long time to get back on our feet," Jean-Baptiste said.

Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than 1 million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing.

The Civil Protection agency said Friday that the death toll from Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall here on Oct. 4, had risen to 546, though it was likely to climb higher as reports continued to trickle in from remote areas. Likewise, the statistics about economic losses are still approximate, but appear to be catastrophic.

In the Grand-Anse region, nearly 100 percent of crops and 50 percent of livestock were destroyed, according to the World Food Program. On the outskirts of Les Cayes, where Jean-Baptiste lives, more than 90 percent of crops were lost and the fishing industry was "paralyzed" as material and equipment washed away, the organization said.

Re-planting vegetable crops can be done relatively quickly and rice fields begin to recover as floodwaters recede, but the loss of mature fruit trees that families nurtured for a generation is a staggering blow. "It will take at least 10 years for nature to do what it needs to do to grow the trees back," said Elancie Moise, an agronomist and senior agriculture ministry official in the south.

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Grapefruit, banana and avocado trees were wiped out along with important root crops such as yams, which were inundated with water or damaged by the whipping wind, Moise said. Vetiver, a grass that is used to produce fragrances and is an important export for Haiti, appears to have sustained some root damage but may be one of the few crops to make it, he added.

There are widespread reports of rising prices in the outdoor markets that line the region's rural roads and of people struggling to find food. "Already there are some people, if you ask them what they ate for dinner last night, they won't be able to answer you," Moise said.

This is a region that only recently began recovering from a drought that had decreased crop production by half. Now, farmers like Jean-Baptiste are wading through the ankle-deep water in their rice fields desperately searching for stalks that may have survived and can still be sold. Many have nothing to salvage. Trees such as bread fruit and coconut palms can't even be sold for charcoal because the wood isn't suitable. People are also trying to save what fruit they can, but most wasn't yet ripe.

"It took a long time for these trees to get strong and now all my coffee has been lost. Our plantains and vegetables, everything is gone," said Rico Lifete, who works a small plot in the craggy mountains outside the coastal city of Jeremie and managed to save his dozen chickens by keeping them inside his stone-and-stucco shack with his family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Haiti as a whole is largely deforested, with an estimated 2 percent of its original forest cover left because of decades of misuse of the land and the cutting of trees to make charcoal for cooking. But this western peninsula that juts out along the Caribbean Sea had been comparatively lush. It includes the cloud-shrouded mountains of Pic Macaya National Park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2016. Until Hurricane Matthew, the narrow roads along the coast were shaded by soaring rows of palms.

Now, it looks like the whole place has been put through a blender. The palms, those that haven't crashed through the roofs of houses and churches, look like they were given a bad haircut, crudely hacked away at the top. The breadfruit and mango trees behind the home of Oscar Corentin, in a village west of Les Cayes, were a tangle of fallen limbs and bare branches.

Corentin and his extended family inherited this piece of land from his mother, and the trees were there when he was born. Asked how old he is, the wiry, bare-chested farmer, who looks to be in his 60s, dismissively waves a machete, saying "I've lost count." His younger cousin says she is 64. The fruit sustained dozens of people, including his seven grandchildren and her 12. "I lost everything," he said. "Please show the world what is going on."

The effects are being felt not only by the farmers who rely on their marginal farmland to eke out a living, but also in the street markets far from the worst-hit districts. Farmers such as Celeo Marcelin have been combing through their remaining crops trying to find anything to salvage for sale, and not finding much. "There's nothing left," he said.

International aid groups say the widespread crop damage will require an influx of seed packs for replanting once the immediate needs of emergency water, food and medicine are met.

"We are aware that it will be more effective to distribute seeds to farmers timed with their next planting season, in early 2017, ideally with fertilizer or compost to help replenish the soil which has been flooded in saltwater," said Jean-Claude Fignole, a senior Oxfam official in Haiti.

A "flash appeal" for Haiti issued by the U.N. humanitarian agency in Geneva was not getting anywhere near the level of support officials are seeking, with only about 5 percent pledged so far of the $120 million requested. The lack of immediate help has caused frustration, with some people in the village where Jean-Baptiste lives just east of Les Cayes trying to force an aid truck to stop and clashing with peacekeepers on a recent afternoon.

"Everything is gone here," he said, "people are going to just leave."

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