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El Salvador floods: a farmer's story

Farmer hit by the El Salvador floods in October 2011

Concepción Martínez

August 2012

When Tropical Depression 12E hit El Salvador in October 2011, rain fell constantly for more than 10 days causing the most devastating floods in the country's history.

Five thousand acres of crops were damaged, and along with them the livelihoods of many poor, rural farmers.

Tropical Depression 12E

In October 2011, Tropical Depression 12E hit El Salvador. Just under 1.5 metres of rain fell over 10 days - significantly more than Hurricane Mitch back in 1998, and a state of national emergency was declared.

The rains and subsequent flooding covered 10% of the country and affected 1 million people (one sixth of El Salvador’s population).

A ruined harvest

'The early warning systems we use have saved lives.'

Concepción Martínez is a farmer in a small community in the region of Usulután. His community lost 50% of their maize crop in the floods, which had almost been ready to harvest. All of their chickens and 15 of their cows also died.

Emergency committee

Before the storm, Christian Aid partner Acudesbal had worked with Concepcion’s village to set-up an emergency committee and to help them to develop an emergency plan.

'The early warning systems we use have saved lives', says Concepción. 'We were told that a tropical storm was approaching Central America and put our community on green alert. We were in constant contact with the Acudesbal office.

'It started to rain, quite quietly at first, but then it became strong. We were ready when we were told to evacuate and went to shelter at the school. There were about 80 families.'

Crops destroyed

Concepción and his community returned to their land to find their maize crops destroyed and their animals dead.

Since the flooding, Acudesbal have helped Concepción and other farmers to plant new crops like malanga (a starchy root vegetable) and new rice varieties which are resistant to floods. This should ensure that, if flooding occurs again, the community will have enough food to eat and to sell.

The effect of climate change

'At the beginning we didn’t realise what was happening – the dry season was longer, the rain lasted for longer.'

Scientific studies predict that severe weather events in countries like El Salvador are likely to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change. This means that communities like Concepción’s are likely to face further damage and destruction to their homes and livelihoods.

Concepción sees the effects of climate change on-the-ground: 'At the beginning we didn’t realise what was happening – the dry season was longer, the rain lasted for longer, there was more flooding. Something was changing.

'Acudesbal began to work with us to explain climate change. They told us that it is happening all over the world but that poor communities like ours are affected the most.'

Ongoing support

Concepción’s community will be dealing with the effects of Tropical Depression 12E for years to come.

‘If the conditions are normal, it will take us at least two or three years to make a full recovery - and that’s if it doesn’t flood again.’

It is the support from partners like Acudesbal which mean that Concepción’s community are not forgotten but are given the resources and help they need to become more resilient.

'I want to give thanks to Christian Aid for supporting us' says Concepción. 'You might be far away, but you still support us.'

 


 

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