The Abaco Islands still need our help! It’s been 14 months since Hurricane Dorian destroyed the Abacos. They are still struggling to obtain power, fresh water, refrigeration, and our focus – food. Help us give them tools they need to sustain themselves.
Effects of Dorian:
Hurricane Dorian, a large category 5 storm that passed through the Bahamas in early September 2019, stalling over the Abaco Islands for 3 days before moving onto the Grand Bahamas and slowing down a bit before making landfall on the eastern border of the US. In the Abacos this resulted in massive destruction; homes destroyed, buildings and businesses wiped out, infrastructure for basic necessities: water, shelter, electricity and food – gone. Human lives – lost.
If we want to talk about food security, systems and solutions. We have to look at the state of production prior to the disaster as well. Focusing on the Abaco islands, although it is true for many island nations (as are many of these existing problems), there is a lack of land, lack of soil and lack of nutrients in the soil. So moving forward we needed to look at ways to increase yield per square foot (or acre) and be able to control the nutrients of the growing medium.
As we know, the Bahamas primary industry is tourism. As more and more locals convert to working in the more lucrative industry, less and less stay focused on growing food, this begins a cause and effect loop of relying more heavily on higher priced imports which then necessitates earning higher wages.
In comes Covid-19, and Nation states around the world realize with even more urgency, the importance of national food security. Ie. Being able to feed a population without relying too heavily on imports. As initial relief efforts wane, and tourism at a stand still, the Bahamians find themselves relying heavily on foreign help to rebuild. Relief is necessary, but the rebuilding process is just as important to help a population get back on their feet and provide for themselves.
People have been slowly returning to the Abaco Islands, 5,500 to be the best estimate I can gather. Meaning that of the 14,000 documented inhabitants, 11,500 were displaced during the storm. The reliance on personal power generators, while still present, is slowing as electricity is being brought back to parts of the Island. Allow me to say that in another way, 12-13 months later power is just being restored to most of the island. Meaning that up until now, residents who remained were not only demolishing and beginning to repair and rebuild homes, but were reliant on access to fuel and the generators to even keep food cool through warm months in an effort to keep it.
This community of helpers is one of the most inspiring stories I have seen. From relief organizations that started as soon as Dorian hit and continue their work today. To Abaco residents that have stepped up and act as a liason- connecting organizations with other organizations, residents and supply chains. A few connections have helped us price out what we can buy right there- so that we are able to facilitate economic independence from the start. They have helped us connect with farmers, those that have already moved back home and those that would like the opportunity to. They have helped us connect with other organizations that may be able to partner to either help with land, supplies or logistics. “Look for the helpers.” – Mister Rogers.
As an organization we focus on the rebuilding phase of relief work. Our mission is to provide infrastructure for food systems in disaster-stricken areas. We will be building the first FEAST (Food Equity and Sustainability Training) Center; installing and sustaining both hydroponic and aquaponic growing systems in a market garden/education center. (These systems are explained in more detail if you click on the links) Providing a sustainable way to grow nutrient dense food, locally: both securing a food system and stimulating the economy.
We are working with local farmers- the fantastic couple of Abaco Neem and many more that are located elsewhere and have helped as consultants, relief organizations (Sol Relief, Water Mission), schools (The Island School) and community organizers to create a project that becomes community accessible and self-sustaining in the first year.
Three people. Two sailboats. And a whole lot of supplies are going to be departing from Florida by mid-November. Laden with rations, items that have yet to be available locally, building supplies, two dinghys (which will be our cars) and a crazy amount of tools will be sailing to the Abaco Islands. One goal of all of our projects is sustainability, both in terms of environmental footprint and the outcome of our work.
Once arriving we will begin laying the foundation. We will begin constructing the Shade House and tool shed to build the systems under. Starting seeds. Ordering fish and networking with primary schools to provide field trips. Once those things are in place, we will begin building the grow systems themselves. Using common features for both systems and spatial efficiency.
Contributions and Support:
The support that we have received is humbling. Both in terms of advice, assistance, financial and supplies. We have had IBC totes – donated. Land with access to clean water and electricity – donated. Tools – provided. A portion of the infrastructure financially covered, as well as on-going financial support for the farmer as we train and transition. Our campaign has just started. We have a number of events coming up in the next few weeks to help raise further funds by partnering with friendly businesses.
Is to see this through, we will be on the ground for around 6 months. Providing on-going support, both organizationally and through training as we get this system dialed in and producing, for an additional ~7-10 months as the Abaco Islands get back up and running and markets reopen.
This project will require a lot. A lot of human-hours. A lot of commitment. And more financial support. Join us! Join in on the journey. Share our story and our work. And if you can, be it $25 or $2500- you can donate through the website or by texting AIDABACO to 44-321. All donations will receive a tax deductible receipt for your records.
Thank you for being a part of this journey!
With so much Gratitude,
The Blue Atlas Team