Hurricane Mathew struck the northern coast of Colombia on October 1, 2016. In the departments of Guajira and Magdalena, strong winds and torrential rains have left nearly 14,000 people affected.
Critical damage can be seen in municipalities Aracataca and Zona Bananera, in Magdalena. Strong rains in the Sierra Nevada disproportionately increased river flow, causing heavy flooding in the surrounding areas. In Zona Bananera, Mayor Holmes Echeverría indicated that the tragedy most heavily hit the towns of Seville and Guacamayal, where river flooding has affected nearly 7,000. Both rural and urban areas were submerged in more than two meters of flood water; however, thanks to early warning and disaster response agencies, the population was able to evacuate in ample time.
It is important to note that this region has been repeatedly affected by extreme climate conditions in recent years, such as long-term drought and high wind damage from another hurricane that struck the area. How can we measure extreme weather conditions? Who can be prepared for a natural disaster of this size?
“Nearly all of the community is facing damage. We have never experienced anything like this; this is greater than the flooding of 1999. The river overflowed the preventative bank we recently built and 70% of the municipality has been affected by flood water,” said the mayor of Aracataca.
In this region CLAC has six member organizations, all of which are banana cooperatives. At the heavily hit COOBAMAG Cooperative, more than 500 people have been affected, including producers, works, cooperative employees, and their families. Flooding also impacted producers and workers at COOBAFRIO, COOMULBANANO, and EMPREBANCOOP.
“This turbine is an investment that was made at Finca Buen Retiro, costing nearly 40 million pesos (approximately $14,000 USD), and it’s underwater. We can only hope that it will continue to work with minor repairs,” said Fredy Rodríguez, manager of COOBAMAG.
Now is the most vital time to reinvent ourselves, and take into account these signs from nature. Our decisions and efforts should be focused on being more aware, more capable, more united, and above all, more strategic in our future. CLAC is currently working to promote discussion of environmental issues, and to create a climate change adaptation plan; however, the problem is much greater than CLAC and its members. It is going to take the power of influencing the wider community, raising awareness amongst youth, and generating real alternatives to climate change to prepare for inevitable situations such as Hurricane Mathew.
In colaboration with local-level organizations in Colombia, CLAC is working to provide support to the organizations and associations affected by the hurricane. If you are able, please make a donation to the Colombian Initiative of Small Fair Trade Producers, using the below account information. Once you have made a donation, please send a copy of the receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BANK NAME: DAVIVIENDA
BANK ADDRESS: Carrera 8 N° 1N 60
CHECKING ACCOUNT NUMBER: 196100121744
ACCOUNT NAME: La Iniciativa Colombiana
LA INICIATIVA COLOMBIANA ADDRESS: Carrera 9 2-32 Barrio San Francisco, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia.