‘I sobbed silently as 2 hurricanes destroyed my home – this is just th…

In the third part of the Mirror’s NextGen International Series, Hixell Rodriguez reports how rising temperatures and hurricanes are wiping out coffee farms in Nicaragua

Hurricance Eta and Iota in 2020 caused mass devastation

Nancy Duarte Rodriguez stood helplessly in the pouring rain as the earth behind her home shifted and then washed down the mountain, destroying almost everything she owned.

This disaster was caused by two hurricanes which followed in quick series, wiping out homes, crops and in some tragic situations, lives.

Hurricane Eta and Iota killed 270 people in Central America in November 2020 and their impact on families like hers has been devastating.

Never in meteorological history had two storms made landfall so close in time and place at a Category 4 intensity.

The likelihood of an Atlantic storm intensifying to become a major hurricane has increased by about 8% per decade over the past four decades, according to research.

“During Eta we had heavy rains all day and night, causing the soil on the mountain where we live to become saturated with water,” 32-year-old Nancy says.

Nancy Rodriguez’s home was destroyed by two hurricanes in 2020
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

“By the time Iota hit us 14 days later, mudslides came thick and fast.

“At about 10am on November 18, I was at home when I heard one of my cousins shout at me to get out of the house closest.

“The rain was coming down hard but I hadn’t realised that part of the mountain was sliding towards the house.

“After grabbing what I could and fleeing for my life, I heard what sounded like a small explosion and as I looked up, I saw the land pummelling down on top of the house.”

The destroyed parts of the plantation
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

She adds: “I placed my hands on my head as I tried to course of action what I was seeing.

“A lump formed in my throat as I sobbed silently. My home was destroyed.

“All the land, stones and crops were nevertheless sliding and I was left without a house, with nothing.”

After about 30 minutes, Nancy and her cousins went to see what they could salvage from the rubble but it was nevertheless raining and there was a chance of another landslide.

Nancy’s family home was destroyed by the hurricanes that hit Nicaragua in 2020
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

With their hearts nevertheless hitting, they could just about make out the desperate meow of their kitten amongst the pouring rain.

“We found her in what was left of the kitchen under all the debris and mud, her little nose poking out,” Nancy says.

“She was the only thing we managed to save that day.

Nancy’s cat was rescued from the debris

Nancy’s home after the landslide
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

“The structure of the home, the kitchen, the bathroom, the organic waste drain that we had recently erected, in addition as an basic water drain had been demolished by the landslide.”

One year on, the house nevertheless needs some repairs but the family were lucky in some ways that day.

By some miracle, their coffee crops survived the storms. Others were not so lucky – complete coffee farms in the vicinity were wiped out.

“I am proud to come from a long line of coffee farmers in Nicaragua and took over our small family-run business from my late father, who died in July 2020,” Nancy says.

Nancy Rodriguez working at her family’s coffee farm
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

Nicaragua has 40,000 coffee farmers, with 84% of them being small producers like Nancy.

But living on the front line of the climate crisis is making life already more challenging.

Nancy says: “When my grandparents settled on the mountain in 1967, the land was high and the climate was ideal for growing coffee. Now 54 years later, coffee is nevertheless grown on the same land but the temperature increase we’re experiencing is destroying our crops.”

As temperatures rise, it’s thought that good coffee will become increasingly difficult to grow.

And by 2050, about half of land used for high-quality coffee will be unproductive, studies show.

Crops are also affected by fungus such as coffee rust and berry identify which wipe them out.

The Rodriguez’s farm is in a mountainous vicinity of Northern Nicaragua
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

Extreme weather resulting from climate change only hastens the spread of this fungus.

It’s thought these factors alone could wipe out as much as two-fifths of Central America’s coffee crop.

“This is a heartbreaking statistic, Nancy says. “My late father, who died age 65, is my greatest source of inspiration and pride in life.

As a coffee farmer he made sure not to harm the ecosystem and taught me the best approach to use and manage natural resources, which is what I will ultimately study at university.

NextGen reporter Hixell Rodriguez at the plantation
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

“He worked for almost a decade to become a 100% organic coffee producer and run a self-sustaining farm while nevertheless protecting a portion of the virgin forest. Our farm, Rancho Viejo, was his life’s work until the end of his days.

“I had to take over the unfinished business when he died because harvest time was approaching and the place was so special to him. So I committed myself to carrying on his legacy.”

A member of the Rodriguez family carrying bags of coffee
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Image:

Maynor Orlando Valenzuela Cisneros)

In the past three years alone climate change and emigration has had a meaningful impact on the cultivation, harvest, and profitability of coffee.

Last year coffee ripening was delayed by the heavy rains that affected the country, but this year it began early in October due to a without of rain.

And many people in the rural regions are emigrating in search of higher-paying jobs, so the labour force for coffee harvesting has decreased considerably throughout the years.

“We fear the hurricanes we faced last year are just the beginning,” Nancy says.

“It is getting harder every day to continue my father’s legacy as a sustainable and responsible coffee farmer, but I will carry on for as long as I can.”

Hixell volunteers with Raleigh International Find out more and sustain their work here.

Raleigh International is a global youth action organisation supporting a global movement of young people to take action for the planet.

Young people are at the spotlight of building a fairer, more inclusive and greener world, and are actively confronting the planet’s most urgent crises by Raleigh International’s Action Not Excuses global campaign.

Dame Chance – meaning ‘to give a chance’ – is an Action Not Excuses campaign led by young people in Nicaragua to reduce deforestation and enhance green livelihoods.

Dame Chance is tackling deforestation and unemployment by helping 6,000 local farmers to increase forest cover.

by the work of this Action Not Excuses campaign, young people from rural communities are developing new job opportunities and working with local communities to conserve and protect Nicaragua’s precious forests.



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