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When Dominica hurts many islands feel the pain | Caymanian Times

By Mike Jarvis, London UK

The visceral pain and suffering that the people of Dominica are currently going through – and will for some time yet – is a tale of woe that echoes in real terms across much of the Eastern Caribbean islands at present.

When Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica on Monday September 18th in full-flow Category 5 ferocity, the scale of destruction and disruption it left in its path could not have been imagined.

It was nevertheless accepted even before the storm hit that it had the potential to cause catastrophic damage.

The double whammy of Hurricane Maria and her predecessor Irma laid waste to lives – over 30 people dead in Dominica alone – and a way of life in the islands through which their marauding winds and torrential rainfall cut a swathe of unimaginable devastation.

But the impact on Dominica is likely to have a more pronounced effect than the storms’ damage in the other islands they pulverised; Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands, St Maarten/St Maarten, plus all the other islands which in some way felt the force of Irma and Maria.

Dominica is known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean for more than its lush, enticing natural environment which has made it an eco tourism haven.

It’s also quite literally in the lexicon of the islands; the ‘garden’ of the Eastern Caribbean’ meaning in this sense, the ‘farm’ and the ‘food basket’ of the islands.

Hurricane Maria laid waste to that...for the time being at least. However, nature has its way of recovering and replenishing itself...but that takes time.

Dominica has been here before – although possibly not with the same extent of destruction. In 1979 Hurricane David literally crippled Dominica’s vibrant and vital agriculture sector for a while.

And while there was some recovery, the large scale banana plantation and coconut products industry suffered a serious setback, compounded by pressures and changes in the global agricultural trading sector dominated by major multinational companies and protectionist trade policies of their governments.

But Dominica’s agriculture sector bounced back with a rethink that emphasised small holdings, and enterprising farmers who had already started creating a niche market for themselves in neighbouring islands for their fruits and vegetables.

What was a niche market quickly evolved from an almost informal but targeted business by hucksters plying their trade in ‘ground provisions’ and fruits in small vessels among the neighbouring islands, to a thriving high-demand sector.

Dominica has been feeding its neighbours, especially the tourism-dependent islands to its immediate north, with regular weekly supplies of food staples.

Dominica’s supply line to these islands has literally been a lifeline for those islands; especially Antigua, Montserrat, Virgin Islands and even St Kitts and Nevis which, up to about a decade ago were thriving food producers themselves until they switched to tourism and financial services.

People must eat and with the global focus now on healthy eating, the term ‘organic’ finds its real health value in what Dominican ‘hucksters –many of them women – sell to their neighbours.

 Although it too has ventured into tourism – and wisely eco-tourism befitting its natural branding of the Nature Isle of the Caribbean – Dominica never ventured out of agriculture.

‘Working the land’ is in the Dominica DNA.

But now, much of the land had been stripped bare of its crops by a cruel smash-and-slash harvest of wind and rain by Hurricane Maria.

It will take time for Dominica’s vital and viable agriculture sector to recover, and the first order of business must be to feed itself. However, the economy of Dominica demands that it’s vibrant and vital ‘business’ of agriculture must be revived as a matter of first priority. That trade in ‘ground provisions’ is more than a food staple for the importing islands, it’s an economic staple for Dominica.

In the interim though, what are the others islands which depend on Dominica for ‘ground provisions and fruits’ to do?

How will the void be filled when it has been the hucksters, farmers and inter-island traders from Dominica which kept the public markets of those islands regularly and reliably stocked and replenished - and foods on their tables – for the residents and the tourists?

To put it another way; when Dominica doesn’t have enough to eat, a lot of other islands go hungry...or are forced to find a more expensive and less nutritious food options.

That’s why helping Dominica recover quickly is much more than an act of expected good neighbourliness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ammajayne

05 Oct, 2017 11:47 AM

Thank you Mannicou River for the work you’ve doing to keep Dominica’s profile high in public awareness. ????????????????????

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Brian

04 Oct, 2017 05:06 AM

I have been to Dominica 3 times, the first time in '96 as an off-the-grid tourist destination which was a very unique Caribbean experience. We rented a jeep and I think I have been down every paved road on the island and some not so paved, from the Carib Indian Reserve down to Soufriere on the southern tip. I have hiked to the Boiling Lake, been to the cultural center in Roseau and taken the canoe guide up the Indian River. It was a unique experience because culturally the external influences were not American but "other." Not much fast-food franchises. I heard Haitian compas and West African soukous being played from speakers at the market, along with the local bouyon and zouk. I also ate a lot of bananas and mangoes, sampled the nutmeg-laced rum punch which is unlike that of any other island. The second time it was as a music journalist covering the Creole Festival in 2000, and last time was 2014 right before the floods. Now this... it hurts to see the same streets that I walked completely devastated along with the livelihood of many. I pray the island and its people can recover.

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Brian

04 Oct, 2017 05:06 AM

I have been to Dominica 3 times, the first time in '96 as an off-the-grid tourist destination which was a very unique Caribbean experience. We rented a jeep and I think I have been down every paved road on the island and some not so paved, from the Carib Indian Reserve down to Soufriere on the southern tip. I have hiked to the Boiling Lake, been to the cultural center in Roseau and taken the canoe guide up the Indian River. It was a unique experience because culturally the external influences were not American but "other." Not much fast-food franchises. I heard Haitian compas and West African soukous being played from speakers at the market, along with the local bouyon and zouk. I also ate a lot of bananas and mangoes, sampled the nutmeg-laced rum punch which is unlike that of any other island. The second time it was as a music journalist covering the Creole Festival in 2000, and last time was 2014 right before the floods. Now this... it hurts to see the same streets that I walked completely devastated along with the livelihood of many. I pray the island and its people can recover.

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Samantha King

03 Oct, 2017 09:33 AM

This is such an important point! The fact that Dominica supplies much of the fresh food in the region is something that has been overlooked and/or taken for granted. If anything good comes from Maria, it is perhaps that the importance of Dominica's farmers and hucksters will become impossible to ignore! Getting Dominican agriculture back up and growing should be a top priority for the economies, food security, and health of not just the country but the entire region!

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