Good News Finally- Fund Set up For Haitian Farmers

Greg Peters - September 30 2008, 3:45 PM

Haiti often comes across as one of the most wretched and hopeless places on the planet.

But that is not the complete picture and the way out of the multiple crises the country faces is much simpler and less expensive than it might seem.

The country tends to hit the headlines in times of flooding or civil strife and most of the photographs and videos that appear are shot in cities.

This also gives a false impression.

More than 65% of Haitians live in rural areas and 82% of these live in poverty.

Even before four storms in as many weeks destroyed hundreds of hectares of crops on the point of harvest, Haiti's farmers were surviving on very little.

There are many reasons for this poverty.

But one of the most significant is trade policies imposed on the country by international financial institutions.

In 1994 the tariff on rice imports was lowered from 36% to 3%.

This led to much rice coming from US farmers who had subsidised surpluses to offload.

Haiti became dependent on food imports because local farmers could not compete with imported rice and home production shrank considerably.

So soaring prices of rice and other staples this year have hit the Haitian population particularly hard.

Milk

But reversing this trend of rising food prices and hence malnutrition is not that difficult - and much cheaper than airlifting tonnes of imported emergency provisions for months to come.

As the flood waters subside, investment in repairing and extending damaged irrigation systems will be crucial if farmers are to be able to get back on their feet.

Seeds and fertiliser are also very important.

A relatively small amount of outside help can enable Haitian farmers to start growing rice again at a time when they can command a better price for it.

Milk is the second largest import after rice. The country has lots of cows, but milk requires careful storage and refrigerated transport.

With almost no mains electricity in the countryside, this is a big challenge.

A project supported by Christian Aid has set out to tackle this problem.

Veterimed has set up 13 dairies around Haiti to process milk into higher value products like yogurt and soft drinks and transport them to shops.

In areas where there is no electricity, they use solar panels to keep the milk products cool. This enables Veterimed to buy milk from local farmers at double the price they would normally receive.

It is not just farmers who need long-term solutions in Haiti.

Many of those whose homes were literally swept away by the flood waters were those who built on the most vulnerable land near the banks of a river.

Sun power

Since the storms, Haitian organisation Poz has decided to offer micro-credit, so that they can start new businesses selling goods in the market.

This will provide them with much needed income.

One innovative Haitian product which could be sold in local markets are solar-powered mobile phone chargers.

In a country with little mains electricity or land-lines, but a lot of sun, it is a very useful gadget.

Haitian people are not short of initiative or man-power.

They do need some help from the outside world following the storms.

But a little, well-targeted aid to grass roots projects will go far.

Donate to Christian Aid. Specify Veterimed, Haiti for help to farmers in getting seeds to replant, obtaining livestock, help Haiti grow its own rice and making their own milk.

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Comments

Greg Peters says...

This the link to Veterimed which is part of Chritian Aid International. Please be kind and donate. Perhaps one day... more »

Tiba says...

Greg, You have got to be kidding me! do Haitians really buy that help crap from the chrestian aid mercenaries phony... more »

Linda says...

Well said Tiba. [that's all I have time to say] more »

Zodevan says...

maybe they will convert our voodooizan Haitians into Christianity. This might be a good thing, you never know. more »