Berkeley student Katherine Siegel examines the impact of hurricanes on Caribbean agriculture in an era of climate change.
“When Hurricane Georges came through back in 1998, we lost a lot of trees. Our canopy trees fell and crushed the cacao trees,” Hugo tells me. We’re sitting in the shade of a cacao tree with three other cacaocultores (cacao growers) on the outskirts of the city of San Francisco de Macorís, in the Dominican Republic. Jorge, Juan, María, and Pablo are all members of a local cacao growers’ cooperative. They generously agreed to spend a day with me, showing me around their small farms in the island’s northeastern region. They grow cacao trees in the shade of taller timber and fruit trees that enrich and stabilize the soil and provide a habitat for native birds and insects. While feeding me copious amounts of tropical fruit — and joking that a cacao farm is better than a grocery store for finding snacks — they patiently answer my questions about agroforestry, biodiversity, and hurricanes.