Feeding Haiti

January 15th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Feeding Haiti

The massive earthquake that struck Haiti three days ago was the worst quake in the region in more than 200 years, with as many as 50,000 people already feared dead. The country is literally in shambles, and although the world community is rallying its relief efforts, the chaos and destruction are simply overwhelming. There is no doubt that the immediate priorities are rescuing those that are trapped under rubble, providing medical aid, and, of course, insuring that people have food and water. It is extremely difficult to even look beyond today and imagine the future prospects for Haiti, as the urgency of now is really all that anyone there is capable of conceiving, as it should be. But sadly, looking forward will become extremely important in the upcoming days and weeks, particularly when focusing on a more long-term plan for feeding the people of this devastated area.

Farming plays a very significant role in the life of Haitians. Nearly 30% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Haiti comes from agriculture. To put that in perspective, just 1% of the U.S. GDP, and 5% on average for the world, comes from agriculture. This country is extremely dependent on farming, not only for its food supply, but for people’s livelihood, and it looks like there will be many obstacles to getting back on track with everyday farming in Haiti. Below is a helpful article from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that sheds more light on this potential situation:

The immediate priorities in Haiti following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake are to rescue those still trapped, bring relief and shelter to the injured, road clearing and other operations that are life-saving.

But over the coming weeks and months people will need to be fed and it is crucial that the priority of boosting agricultural production in the country does not get forgotten in the rubble and chaos.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) is closely monitoring the situation on the ground to get a clearer picture of the immediate impact on food security and food production. It is working in close partnership with the World Food Programme and other UN agencies dealing with emergency food aid and nutrition.

As soon as the situation on the ground allows it, FAO will continue to build on its expertise and current work to make sure food production continues in the rest of the country. The next agriculture season starts in March.

Destruction of roads, bridges, fishing ports and irrigation infrastructure will all have a serious effect on food production. FAO country team is preparing to assess damages as soon as possible.

The priority for FAO’s Haitian agronomists and technicians in the immediate aftermath of this terrible catastrophe is to keep Haitian agriculture production going in support of the effort to feed those in the effected areas.

More than a half of Haitians – between five and six million people – live in rural areas and around 85 percent of the rural population practice some agriculture and farming which accounts for around 26 percent of Haiti’s economic output making agriculture by far the country’s biggest employer. Up until now, the majority of the hungry and malnourished live in rural areas.

There is a strong possibility of an exodus of homeless people from the earthquake-hit capital to relatives and friends there. Haiti’s countryside is fraught with degraded soils and deforested mountains, but its key role is in food production, which will prove even more challenging in the wake of the earthquake.

It is therefore even more important that the reconstruction of agricultural assets are high priorities in early rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

How to Help

The White House is encouraging donations to the international fund of the Red Cross to support relief efforts in Haiti. Cell phone users can text “Haiti” to the number 90999 and donate $10 to the Red Cross. The amount will be added to the donor’s cell phone bill.