Equipping Farmers on Dominica Long After Hurricane Maria

March 13, 2019 • Dominica
Gilles unloads fertilizer from Samaritan’s Purse to aid her crops.

After the Category 5 hurricane disrupted Dominica’s ability to produce food, Samaritan’s Purse is helping its agricultural community regroup and start again.

“After Hurricane Maria, we had no hope,” Norla said. “We were really hurting. We had nothing to plant and nothing to eat.”

Norla serves as the village council secretary of Vieille Case, Dominica, by day and farms in the evenings. Many farmers in Dominica will tell you similar stories.

After Hurricane Maria destroyed the agricultural landscape of this island in September 2017, the thousands of people who relied on the farming industry felt stuck. Perhaps they could find assistance for repairing their leaking roofs, and perhaps their children’s schools would be rehabilitated in a few months, but how were they going to earn enough money to continue supporting their families’ needs? The way forward felt completely overwhelming.

Clement is grateful for the assistance of Samaritan’s Purse horticulture program.

Clement is grateful for the assistance of the Samaritan’s Purse horticulture program.

“Two weeks after the hurricane I really broke down and I cried,” said Gilles, a farmer from Capuchin. “I just felt like my back was against the wall, and I could not do anything.”

“It’s been discouraging,” said Clement, a farmer from a village in the northeast region of Dominica. “A lot of farmers have abandoned their farms.”

The weight of widespread need, coupled with the high cost and lack of available supplies to restart, has prevented many farmers from returning to agriculture as their main source of income.

Renewing Hope

Samaritan’s Purse recognized that the recovery needs after Hurricane Maria ran deeper than damaged roofs and broken generators. If Dominicans were to return to being self-sustaining, their livelihoods would have to be restored. Based on this need, Samaritan’s Purse developed the Horticulture Production Program and sent representatives out to see how best to serve farmers on the island.

“When [they] came to us talking about farming, I thought: Wow, that is good,” Norla said. “I didn’t expect it.”

Farmers across Dominica have been surprised by the way Samaritan’s Purse has stuck with them, helping them beyond initial reconstruction. Day after day, Samaritan’s Purse horticulture officers visit farmers across the island to encourage them. In 2018, they delivered more than 800 packages of seeds and over 280 agricultural tool kits.

“Your neighbor is someone you have when you’re in need,” Gilles said. “Samaritan’s Purse has become one of my neighbors.”

“Samaritan’s Purse has become one of my neighbors.”

Through the horticulture program, Samaritan’s Purse has already trained more than 550 people on improved agricultural technologies, and we are working to restore 80 greenhouses damaged by the hurricane.

“I am excited about what they’re doing,” Gilles said. An energetic farmer, she is passionate about getting fresh, organic produce back in the local markets. “I’m already well into vegetable production, and I’m seeing, with the assistance from Samaritan’s Purse, that I’m not going to be in want for fresh vegetables. The supermarkets also won’t need to be in want.”

Fresh produce is now being grown in abundance on Dominica in part because of Samaritan’s Purse horticulture program.

Fresh produce is now being grown in abundance on Dominica in part because of the Samaritan’s Purse horticulture program.

After being in a place of utter hopelessness, Gilles is again full of hope and enthusiasm.

Gilles has been pondering the ways Samaritan’s Purse has been a neighbor to her by offering help in her most critical moments. As she has slowly recovered from one of the most desperate times in her life, she has been convicted by the question: Who is my neighbor? Beyond the agricultural assistance, Samaritan’s Purse has given Gilles a practical picture of what it looks like to obey God’s command to love your neighbor.

“I pray that the generosity of their hearts will make my heart even more generous,” Gilles said. “Sometimes when things become difficult, we harden our hearts. So, I’ve been asking God for my heart to become even more generous to my fellow man.”

Please pray that farmers across Dominica will be encouraged, and, as Gilles prays, that they will soften their hearts toward God and become people known for generosity. Ask that the farmers will view the blessings they receive as gifts to be used to bless their families and their neighbors.