COMITE DE EMERGENCIA GARIFUNA de Honduras
The Comite is a non-hierarchical
organization supporting sustainable agriculture in 16 towns. Acitivities
include training, human rights and ancestral lands defense, a children's
breakfast program, artisan fishing and cultural rescue.
After Hurricane Michell, the Comite kept women, even the poorest and most vulnerable women, as the decision makers at the center of disaster response. In the 10 towns most severely affected, we have tool banks which organise with the Comite as well as lend tools. Farmers here are mostly poor women who work in non-mechanized, subsistence farming. Both the banks and the Steering Committees have a majority of women.
We incorporate a long term, sustainable, and community empowerment outlook. Thus, though severe hunger was predicted when the manioc (yucca) root bread ran out, and that in the ground has rotted from the storm, we did not insist that the only need was emergency food: food, in the short term, but also seeds to replant, and other items to prevent crises and to strengthen the community. These other items include radios to coordinate shipping surplus crops and yuca mills which allow women to save the yuca and prevent it from rotting. With the mills, they can harvest and process a large amount of yuca.
It is easy to spout nice words and appealing rhetoric about women as being central to effective, pro-active, community - building disaster relief. The Comite actually puts it into practice.
Through Groots, Comite member Ana Lucy Bengochea was facilitated to travel to Tamil Nadu, India to share her experiences and some lessons learned with women who survived the tsunami. Garifuna in Honduras have gained insights and implemented ideas from elsewhere; for instance, hurricane resistant reconstruction techniques from a women's group in Jamaica.