Nicaragua: restoring livelihoods after Hurricane Felix

Published: 3 July 2008 0:00 CET

Marie Louise Belanger, regional communications officer for Mexico, Central America and Panama

Nicaraguan communities devastated by 2007’s Hurricane Felix have taken another step towards recovery, thanks to a food security and water and sanitation project set up by the Nicaraguan Red Cross.

The Red Cross Red Crescent provided seeds and technical guidance on how best to plant and nurture crops, improve production levels of plants such as tomatoes and chiltoma, and work the land efficiently.

The project benefited a total of 1,910 families in 14 communities in the municipalities of Puerto Cabezas and Waspam, and was supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and a number of other partners.


“Before initiating the project, the Nicaraguan Red Cross, with support from the Netherlands Red Cross, did a community assessment that identified a selection of crops familiar to the indigenous communities living in the area, therefore respecting their culture and traditions,” explained Leonor Zaes, who coordinated the project for the Nicaraguan Red Cross society .

She explained that Waspam and Puerto Cabezas, which were very badly hit by the hurricane, had a number of pressing needs. These included food, water and sanitation, health services and housing.

“Food is the fundamental base of human survival, and since soil and crops were damaged; one of the most urgent needs was to reactivate food production in a fast and efficient way to help the families re-establish their livelihoods,” she said.


“The involvement of women in the programme was essential, because they are at the heart of the communities and many of them are the sole providers for their families,” Leonor added.

Most of the techniques passed on through the project were new to the communities in Puerto Cabezas. As a result of the programme, most families are becoming self-sufficient and are no longer dependent on making long journeys to buy the food they need.

“The project has inspired farmers to scale up their practices and improve their production levels, to be able to sell their produce to the municipalities of Waspam and Puerto Cabezas,” Leonor said.


Hurricane Felix hit the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in September 2007.

In Nicaragua, more than 162,000 people were affected. Some 80 per cent of the community infrastructure in the affected area was destroyed, agricultural land was flooded and crops were devastated.

The Red Cross Red Crescent food security project was supported by local authorities and government institutions, the World Food Programme, SINAPRED and the Catholic Church.