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Tropical storm Agatha devastates CCDA Communities


By admin - Posted on 08 June 2010

 June 6, 2010 - CCDA appeals for aid to rebuild  

 Dear Cafe Justicia drinkers, distributors and roasters;

As many will heard, Tropical Storm Agatha swept through Central America last week leaving death and destruction in its wake. It's impact was greatest in the Guatemalan highlands where more than 100 people were killed and thousands left homeless.

Agatha hit hardest in the provinces of Chimaltenango, Suchitepequez and Solola, where most of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands communities (CCDA - the producers of Cafe Justicia) are located, so we knew they must have been affected by the storm.  But, aware of the tremendous support so many of you provided in February and March after the destruction of the CCDA's coffee stores and the forcing into exile of CCDA Coordinator Leocadio Juracan, BC CASA/Cafe Justicia was reluctant to send out yet  another appeal for aid.

After receiving an appeal from the CCDA (attached) and speaking with Leocadio (he and his family returned to Guatemala at the end of April), however, it is clear that the CCDA communities need our assistance in a big way.

When I called Leocadio last Thursday, he was in the middle of a emergency planning meeting with the CCDA reps from the area. He sounded exhausted and kind of discouraged, but still determined. He said the impact of Agatha has been even worse than Hurricane Stan in 2005, but after that disaster they set up better emergency response procedures in the CCDA communities so the death toll is less. The material destruction is extensive - entire villages wiped off the map. Those who have visited the CCDA's headquarters in Quixaya will remember the community of Pampojila located about 5 kilometres up the road to San Lucas - the one with the big white (sometimes yellow) church on the right hand side of the road, and the large village on the left. It is completely gone, only the church remains. Other communites are still standing but with homes destroyed or damaged, many bridges are washed out, including one that crosses the Madre Vieja river to unite the CCDA co-ops of El Paraiso and la Recompensa. The CCDA proudly inaugurated that bridge last month - they spent US $11,000 in coffee profits to build it - - gone. Much of the piping bringing clean water to communities has been destroyed by slides, so people are drinking from rivers and streams. Leocadio says outbreaks of gatrointestinal illnesses are beginning to break out in the communities and emergency shelters.

Recently planted crops have been wiped out in many CCDA communities. Leocadio estimates that in the CCDA villages in Patulul and San Lucas Toliman alone, the equivalent of 200,000 lbs of corn was destroyed. Much of last year's harvest was damaged by Hurricane Ida in November, so these communities were already short on food.

In the same two municipalities 150,000 coffee plants were destroyed by mudslides - even if they are able to replant the coffee, each plant takes four years to start producing, so that's four year with no income. While most of the damage has been to mountainside villages, the municipal capital San Lucas Toliman was also affected. Leocadio reports that Wednesday June 2, another mudslide swept down on the town, destroying 60 homes and burying alive another 12 people.

The CCDA and others have uploaded video footage of the destruction in the Madre Vieja valley (Patulul and San Lucas) - You can view it here:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0mvXWmkYnU&feature=related
Despite feeling discouraged in the face of all they have been through this year - Leocadio says it feels like each time they take one step forward, they're pushed back two - the CCDA worked quickly to support its communities. By the middle of last week they had already established the following:
1.      10 emergency shelters for approximately 4,500 people

2.      Three search and rescue teams to find people and recuperate belongings.

3.      Two food and nutrition teams to support food preparation in each of the shelters.

4.      Medical assistance, both first aid and psychological counselling. 5.  Three teams to organize the transfer and return of refugees to their communities

But they're going to need outside support in order to provide their members with emergency medical support, food and water, and with the long process of rebuilding destroyed and damaged communities. Cafe Justicia - BC, in collaboration with CoDevelopment Canada, is collecting donations to send to the CCDA for their relief effort. If you are able to contribute, please send cheques to Cafe Justicia BC at 3205 Findlay St., Vancouver BC, V5N 4E6 (CoDevelopment Canada is a registered charity, so if you need a tax receipt, please make the cheque out to CoDevelopment and put CCDA relief in the memo line) - Other groups raising funds in Canada for the CCDA's relief work are Rights Action (rightsaction.org) and the Breaking the Silence Network (www.breaking-the-silence.org) -