In the first week of October, Tropical Storm Nate passed through Central America. Having suffered the most damage, Costa Rica considers the storm to be the worst natural disaster affecting the region in decades; this in part, is due to the magnitude of damages caused in agriculture and infrastructure. According to the government, housing was damaged in one third of the country. It is also estimated that 124,000 hectares of land were affected by the storm, resulting in losses of nearly $20 million in coffee, bananas and other products.
According to the official report, the passing of such tropical storms has a great effect on the agricultural sector, and therefore small-scale producers. In the case of CLAC’s member organizations in Costa Rica, following a damage assessment, a total of six organizations have been impacted by the storm: ALIANZA, COOPEASSA R.L., COOPEAGRI R.L., COOPECAÑERA R.L., COOPETARRAZÚ R.L. and COOPROSANVITO R.L.
Fairtrade coffee organizations reported crop losses on behalf of cracking and sliding of land, making agricultural activity nearly impossible; the storm also caused coffee cherries to fall from the trees. Organizations such as COOPROSANVITO R.L. reported losses on 25 to 50% of their land. Of these, 47.4% was caused by landslides, while 36.8% resulted in the fall of coffee cherries. On the other hand, COOPETARRAZÚ R.L. reported the loss of coffee seedlings on more than 300 farms. Overall, the organizations have suffered structural damage, including damage to members’ homes and community access (roadways).
In relation to sugar cane production, crop damage has been reported by more than 20 producers. This will affect the total production of sugar cane for the 2018 harvest, with a possible 20% decrease in production.
In the wake of the storm, Fairtrade organizations in Costa Rica are joining forces to slowly recover at both organization and community levels. Small producer organizations are now faced with the need to better prepare themselves for such storms, and to prevent and reduce the negative effects of climate phenomena in their communities and on their farms, which directly affect their families. For this reason, we must raise awareness about climate change; and above all, identify and adopt better strategies, systems, technologies and production practices to adapt to the effects of climate change and ensure the viability of Fairtrade producers and their products.