Mudslide Update from Oaxaca, Mexico

Written by Plant With Purpose on September 28, 2010 in General

As you may have heard in the news, heavy rains have continued to fall on the Mexican state of Oaxaca.  Plant With Purpose works with 52 communities in the Oaxaca region. Since 1996,  we have partnered with local farmers to plant 421,697 trees, distribute 696 micro-credit loans, construct 270 eco-friendly stoves, and nurture over 500 family vegetable gardens, among other projects. These sustainable techniques help to prevent landslides, foster economic development, and provide nourishment for families. Today we got word of deadly mudslides that have struck the mountains around Oaxaca City. We received news that, as of now, all of our staff and the communities where we work have been spared. However, the rain is expected to continue to fall heavily. We ask for your prayers for the communities where we work and for all the people of Oaxaca.
Below is a brief interv
iew with Milmer Martinez, our program officer for Mexico:

Milmer, what can you tell us about the mudslides in Oaxaca?

Milmer: As you probably know by now this amount of rain has been unprecedented in Oaxaca. Toward the Sierra del Mije a giant mudslide covered, according to official estimates, 500 people. The city of Oaxaca, which is found in the valley, has not received much rain; however, the rivers are overflowing and flooding both residential as well as crop areas.

Can you tell us anything about the history of these kinds of floods in Oaxaca; when was the last time something like this happened?

Milmer: I do not know when the last flood of this kind was nor does Luis, our Plant With Purpose staff directly in Oaxaca, but it is definitely unprecedented. If anything, Oaxaca has traditionally struggled with the lack of rain and prolonged dry seasons. The record rainfall for the state has been surpassed by a few inches in these past weeks.

Also, the deforestation and erosion characteristic to the areas where we work has made its people very vulnerable to environmental conditions and can lead to consequences such as floods and decreased food security. In our communities, we have not had mudslides, but the excess rain continues to threaten the crops. Our operations have been postponed due to mudslides that have affected road access to our communities, but thankfully, lives are not threatened at this moment.

Is there anything that people in the mountains can do to prepare for flooding?

Milmer: Our projects in general are designed to empower indigenous processes within our communities, which decrease communities’ vulnerability to external factors. One prime example is the management of watershed areas through reforestation and mechanical barriers that slow water flow. Water catchment systems like those used in our cistern and water tank projects can actually decrease flooding while providing for communities’ water needs. Additionally, our income generation activities have increased farmers’ abilities to save for emergencies. But unfortunately, during cases of extreme weather or environmental conditions even highly reforested areas and its people can suffer.

Do you see these kinds of floods getting worse? What does the season ahead look like?

Milmer: I believe it depends of the direction and frequency of storm systems.

What is Plant With Purpose doing to help people who are at risk for this kind of flooding?

Milmer: We are currently meeting with community leaders and authorities to assess the needs and measures we need to take, but until then, we can raise awareness about the current situation and the damages that the people are facing in Oaxaca. And as always, please keep our Plant With Purpose staff and the people of Oaxaca in your prayers.

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