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Cabarete Sostenible Basics: How the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted food insecurity in the Dominican Republic

volunteer of cabarete sostenible packing garlic and limes for food aid program, dominican republic

Cabarete is a town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, a country known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and bustling tourism industry. Yet, beneath the surface of this picturesque paradise, lies a stark reality – one that the Covid-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus.

Introduction: A Tale of Two Realities

Tourism is a double-edged sword in the Dominican Republic. On one hand, it fuels the economy, providing jobs and opportunities for many. On the other hand, it leaves vulnerable populations exposed to the whims of global fluctuations. This vulnerability was laid bare when the country was forced to shut its borders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving families reliant on informal tourism-related jobs without a source of income overnight.

Summary Breakdown of April 2020: The Birth of Cabarete Sostenible

Cabarete Sostenible emerged as an emergency response to the food crisis that surfaced during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the outbreak, the average family in Cabarete lived on the brink of food insecurity, with barely enough food to last three days. When the shutdown hit, Jonathan “Tomato” and Tomas “Papo” Soñe recognized the impending catastrophe and rallied a coalition of local organizations, community leaders, and volunteers to take action.

Their goals were clear: in the short term, provide emergency food relief to prevent a humanitarian crisis. In the long term, establish food sovereignty in Cabarete, ensuring that residents have access to nutritious food and the means to sustain themselves economically, socially, and environmentally.

The Lay of the Land During the Pandemic

Amidst the national shutdown and curfews, the people of Cabarete faced unprecedented challenges. Despite the restrictions, the community remained resilient, adhering to guidelines while grappling with the threat of income loss and food insecurity.

Volunteer of Cabarete Sostenible packing produce for the food aid program that deals with food insecurity in Cabarete

The Beginnings of a Vision Involving Community Care and Food Sovereignty

As the crisis unfolded, a vision began to take shape. Volunteers worked tirelessly to establish the Food Aid Program; by July 2020 we had already distributed over 2,000 food packages. Simultaneously, the Community Garden was born, offering a sustainable solution to food insecurity through civic agriculture. This holistic approach not only provided immediate relief but also laid the groundwork for long-term resilience.

Post-Covid Realities: Facing Persistent Challenges

Four years on, Cabarete continues to grapple with systemic issues exacerbated by the pandemic. Low salaries, rising housing costs, and a surge in real estate investment threaten the livelihoods of local residents. National salaries are at an average of $250 USD a month but inflation has caused a rise in the “canasta familiar” or the basic goods a family needs to not be in poverty, which is close to $700 USD a month. While the tourism industry booms, it comes at a cost – displacing communities, depleting resources, and widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Understanding Food Insecurity in Cabarete

In the neighborhoods behind the glitzy tourist attractions, a different reality unfolds. Places like La Cienega, Callejón de la Loma, and Barrio Blanco are home to a growing population of low-income families living hand-to-mouth. Food insecurity is not just a statistic here; it's a harsh reality faced by nearly half of the households in Cabarete. According to our Questionnaire data, approximately 44% of households suffer from food insecurity. 31% of these households are in critical condition. Cabarete Sostenible is on the frontlines, identifying and supporting the most vulnerable – the elderly, disabled, and unemployed.

Food aid package to fight food insecurity in cabarete dominican republic

Conclusion: Nurturing Communities, Nourishing Futures

The Food Aid Program continues to provide a vital lifeline for families in need, supplementing their groceries and easing the burden of uncertainty. But our work doesn't stop there. We're committed to evolving with our communities, addressing their changing needs, and building a future where everyone has access to food, dignity, and opportunity.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have exposed the fault lines in our society, but it also ignited a spirit of resilience and solidarity. As we look ahead, let us remember the lessons learned and the bonds forged – for it is in coming together that we find strength, and sustenance for all.

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