The winds were so intense that my eardrums popped from the pressure changes.
By the time Hurricane Maria passed, nothing was the same.
We weren’t ready. The experts had told us to prepare for a minor hurricane. No one was expecting the Category 5 hurricane that blew through Dominica, tearing doors and windows from our homes.
Almost all the roofs in Dominica are now gone. Schools remain closed. Only our capital city, Roseau, has regained electricity.
The death count is devastating. On a tiny island of only 70,000 people, 31 didn’t survive the storm and 34 are still missing. Almost everyone here lost someone they knew. Friends. Family members. Three of my neighbours are gone.
It’s hard to recognize the Dominica we now live in. Once lush with green vegetation, the tree tops have all been torn away. Every crop-filled greenhouse has been smashed. The fields are barren.
We are an island that depends heavily on agriculture for survival. Before the storm, a staggering 30% of Dominica residents earned their living through farming. With so much of our topsoil now washed away or contaminated, we have no choice but to start over from nothing.
That’s where WUSC comes in. And that’s why I’m hoping you will give generously to our Dominica relief efforts today.
Over the past three years, WUSC has been working to advance Caribbean economies through the development of inclusive agricultural market practices.
Root vegetables, and particularly potatoes, have long been a staple of the Dominica diet. After the hurricane ravaged crops throughout the nation, residents have been left sustaining themselves on imported rice – a drastic change from the predominantly local meals people here are accustomed to.
Potatoes are a simple yet important piece of the nation’s road to recovery. Replanting devastated potato crops not only means food to feed Dominica locals, but also an opportunity to regain livelihood for many farmers.
The potato is what we call a “cash crop”. Taking only a few months to grow, it can quickly be sold for profit and then planted anew. This means a quicker return to economic independence for those working in agriculture.
WUSC is particularly focused on increasing access to agricultural employment for women and youth. Gender equity is an important part of all the work we do. We know a brighter future depends on the ability of women and youth to participate fully in the marketplace.
Before Hurricane Maria, many Dominican women had already benefited from WUSC’s programming.
Women like Dawn Francis from the central mountainous region. In her mid-forties, Dawn is a strong advocate of permaculture and organic farming. She smartly capitalized upon the natural beauty of her farm and its location to attract tourists, inviting them to participate in farming activities and enjoy freshly prepared meals using produce from the farm.
WUSC provided Dawn with a hardy potato variety called the El Mundo, which allowed her to cut down the time it takes to get potatoes from farm to table. She claimed a 1:5 return, selling many potatoes to the local supermarket, and was eager to begin her next harvest.
But then the hurricane hit and Dawn’s world was turned upside down. Not only did she lose her house, but she also lost all the tools of her business as well as her potatoes.
Each and every dollar you are able to give WUSC means people like Dawn will get back on their feet more quickly.
I cannot begin to explain the fear that Hurricane Maria brought to families here. The storm lingered over the island for hours. It felt never-ending. I remember clutching my three children close and just hoping we would make it through together safely.
But now it’s time to rebuild. And I know that with the support of WUSC donors like you, we can help Dominica move forward into a new era of hope and growth. Your gift will help promote good agricultural practices while adopting climate change measures, preparing the island for whichever weather forces may be yet to come.
WUSC will also work to replace small pieces of farming equipment lost in the storm, meaning more efficient planting and harvests. Combined with the expertise of an agronomist, farmers will be better positioned than ever to be economically self-sufficient.
Although agriculture is a hugely important piece of Dominica’s economy, it is not the sole focus of WUSC’s relief efforts. We will provide support to the Dominica Youth Business Trust (DYBT) to train young entrepreneurs and help rebuild their businesses that were devastated by the hurricane. We will also contribute funding to the Dominican Export and Import Agency.
These initiatives are only made possible through the generosity of WUSC supporters like you. I hope I can count on you to help my neighbours, people who have been left with nothing in the wake of this natural disaster.
We know WUSC’s program works because we have seen its successes before the hurricane. I truly believe in the uniquely valuable opportunity this program affords Dominican farmers, and women and youth in particular.
I think often of Rosie Francis, a veteran farmer and entrepreneur from Calibishie who lost a good deal of money in the wake of falling banana prices. She sought out support from WUSC, planting a variety of crops and participating in agricultural training. After planting 10 bags of potato seeds, she reaped 60 bags of potatoes… Which she was able to turn around and sell to a local grocery store with no marketing necessary.
But, like Dawn, Rosie lost everything in the hurricane, including her livelihood.
Dominica has seen so much devastation. There are countless people on the island left with no way to earn a living, no roof over their heads, and no crops left in their field. And while other aid agencies are helping rebuild homes and infrastructure, it’s up to people like us to help rebuild the agricultural system.
This hurricane stole entire livelihoods. But together, we can build greater resilience and help Dominica farmers thrive once again. Will you make your life-changing gift to WUSC today?
Wishing you and yours a happy and safe new year,
Nadia Pacquette-Anselm OECS/Barbados Coordinator and Agribusiness & Marketing Consultant, WUSC
P.S. The people of Dominica are incredibly strong and resilient. With the support of people like you, they’ll get back on their feet quickly. Please give generously today.