(TNS) – A feisty Vanette Joseph slowly navigates her way through a field of debris, passing broken branches and other reminders of last year’s devastating 145-mph hurricane before spying one of her few surviving plants.
“All of the lime trees were destroyed,” she says as something catches her eye. She moves in for a closer look.
Much like Hurricane Matthew put a choke-hold on her livelihood, an invasive coiling vine has gotten hold of the lone standing lime tree, and Joseph, 91, isn’t happy. So the determined farmer pushes her eyeglasses on top of her forehead, reaches in and starts pulling.
“I had 100 coconut trees,” she said. “They used to give me at least 10 sacks to send to Port-au-Prince. Now, I can’t even find one coconut to put in some rice to eat.”
For most of her life Joseph has been self-sufficient, building a life off of coconut, breadfruit, plantain, mangoes and other crops, which she and her late husband planted in this western breadbasket, 172 miles from Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince.
Then Hurricane Matthew rumbled through in October and uprooted it all, leaving behind $2.8 billion in damage.
In Matthew’s immediate aftermath, U.N. and nongovernmental agencies trucked and flew in thousands of metric tons of rice and vegetable oil and distributed emergency tarps to storm victims all along Haiti’s southern peninsula, where the storm’s Category 4 winds hit. And when reports of hunger surfaced in this rural plain and other storm-ravaged communities earlier this year, they stepped in to do more.
But nine months after Matthew’s passage, the free rice rations have stopped and food shortages have been replaced with unaffordable high-priced staples. Once locally available, they are…