In April 2018, a tornado blew down the trees surrounding Bonifacia Vera’s home, leaving a pile of rubble behind. Bonifacia and her husband thought they had prepared for the storm that hit Tres de Mayo, Paraguay. Local radio stations issued warnings, but they never imagined a storm of that magnitude could occur.

The Government of Paraguay declared a state of emergency due to the high winds that destroyed more than 100 houses, four warehouses, two police stations, a school, and many hectares of farm land and equipment in just 10 minutes. Bonifacia and her family, including eight children aged four to 17, received food kits and corrugated sheet metal to build a temporary shelter from the municipal and national governments.

In 2017, the Promoting Risk and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) program, funded by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, worked with local authorities to identify Tres de Mayo as one of its five targeted municipalities and Bonifacia and her family as one of the 500 families supported by the program. Tres de Mayo, located in southern Caazapá, is one of the most vulnerable municipalities in the region. Its isolated location and lack of infrastructure, especially roads, create major barriers to socioeconomic development.

The PREP program helps the Government of Paraguay and vulnerable households prepare for, mitigate, and adapt to climate shocks by providing training and grants that boost resilience and food security.

Standing on the rubble of what was once her home, Bonifacia describes what her family went through that night in her native Guarani language.

“We never felt so afraid … We all hid under the bed and started praying … The journalists who interviewed us afterwards could not understand how we survived.” — Bonifacia Vera, a PREP program participant

After the storm, the PREP program provided Bonifacia with a horticulture seed kit and supplies to assemble a home garden and trained her in agricultural practices. Her husband built the garden in just two days using the assembly guide developed by the program. Soon Bonifacia carried out the first sowing. Within five months, her family had already harvested vegetables three times.

With the training and constant technical assistance Bonifacia received from PREP, she now understands the planting and harvesting seasons, how to cultivate different types of vegetable, and the care required to increase their yields.

“Now I’m happy,” says Bonifacia. “My garden is bigger than the one I had before the tornado, and it is not even noticeable that we had to start from scratch a year ago. Now we harvest peppers, zucchini, tomato, lettuce, and carrots to feed my family.”