A viewpoint on helping Haiti

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Barb
Posts: 140
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2006 1:36 pm

A viewpoint on helping Haiti

Post by Barb » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:09 am

Viewpoint: How to help Haiti

The two hurricanes and two tropical storms that hit Haiti within the space of a month left several hundred people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, and damaged the already fragile economy. Sarah Wilson of the Christian Aid development organisation has been in Haiti to assess the emergency response to the devastation. She offers her view on some of the best ways to help Haitians recover: 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. Misland Perone, 19, lived with her mother and three children near Montrouis, about 80km (50 miles) from the capital. She had her first child at 15. Standing in the rubble of her house, she said: “There were four houses in front of ours. There's no trace of them now.” Misland only managed to grab her children and one basket of clothes before the flood waters destroyed most of her house. Now she is sleeping in a different friend's house every night with her children. Sun power Before the hurricane she made a living selling sex to locals and truck drivers passing through town.
Since the storms, Haitian organisation Poz has decided to offer women like Misland micro-credit, so that they can start new businesses selling goods in the market. This will provide them with much needed income and perhaps a long-term alternative to selling sex. 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.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/ukfs_news/hi/ ... 634135.stm

Barb
Posts: 140
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2006 1:36 pm

Post by Barb » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:17 am

When I see the Bush Administration's call for a world summit on the economic crisis, I wonder just what kinds of solutions that administration has to offer anyone and how such a call will be received.

Haiti and news of Haiti seems to have dropped off the radar again, but it seems to me that the economic crisis, ecological disaster, etc., etc., needs to be studied and addressed first at the level of ordinary Haitians. Why the news would focus less on them during times of crisis makes no sense to me. They are, in a sense, on the cutting edge, and if solutions can be found for them, the same solutions will be needed by all of us eventually.

jafrikayiti
Posts: 218
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2006 7:16 pm

Let Agogo

Post by jafrikayiti » Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:08 am

The Veterimed example cited in the above article is indeed a success story that requires multiplying in the country.

I have been further encouraged by the positive attitude and actions of the lead Haitian bureaucrat in charge of the School Cantine Program, Mrs. Pérard of the Ministry of Education who is working to have Haitian kids drink Haitian-produced goods, including the Let agogo milk.

Here is an interesting set of short Youtube videos presenting Let Agogo.

And for all its flaws, the current leadership of Haiti also seems to have a desire to work on this national production agenda....will they stay focused and not get derailed in stupid activities such as "Franco-phoney" - i sure do hope so.

The presence of Michel Chancy, formerly of Veterimed, as the newly appointed Secretary for Animal Production proves that President Préval has not lost his touch as a results-oriented, no-non sense agronomist. I just hope he keeps focused and manages well the often tense relationship between the two heads of the Haitian Executive monster.

Here is the link to Let Agogo - well worth the 2 or 4 minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbpRwHfucu0

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