Many countries throughout the world are stuggling with drought and food insecurity related to El Nino. According to FEWS-NET agricultural production in Haiti is fifty percent below normal and coping mechanisms are being exhausted. Associated Press reporter David McFadden's describes the impact that food insecurity is having on parts of the Haitian countryside. The full article follows.
Last week, Trenton Daniel wrote an article highlighting malnutrition and hunger in Haiti’s neglected rural areas. Over the long term, the countryside needs agricultural modernization, better environmental management, and roads to move crops to regional markets. Haiti first has to make it through hurricane season which began May 1st. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates an above normal hurricane season with a 70 percent chance of 12 to 18 named storms, including 6 to 10 hurricanes. Storms put lives, crops, and infrastructure in Haiti at risk.
John Holmes, the UN Humanitarian Chief, yesterday expressed frustration with the humanitarian response in Haiti. Holmes stated finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into the settlements (often for services not available in their own neighborhoods) have made responding to the crisis particularly difficult. The Haitian government, responsible for setting priorities and developing plans, lacks staffing and expertise. It is being pulled in many directions at once on issues relating to shelter, hurricane contingency planning, governance reforms, elections, law enforcement, food security, and decentralization.
Haiti faced a number of challenges in 2009 including decreased remittances from the Diaspora as well as a messy transition at the Prime Ministerial level. All things considered though, Haiti enters 2010 stronger than it was at the beginning of 2009. The capacity of ministries to deliver basic services is improving and partnerships have been solidified with the United States, Canada, and a number of Latin American and European governments. Haiti has more investment opportunities than at any other time in the post-embargo era. The next challenge will be the February 2010 legislative elections, already controversial. Improving food security will undoubtedly be an important theme throughout the new year.
The past month has been important for Haiti. The World Bank, IMF, and the IDB forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt. Deals were reached with members of the Paris Club to cancel an additional $152 million in debt. Bill Clinton made his first trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy. Plus, discussions at the G8 Summit indicated we may be on the verge of a historic shift in how food assistance is delivered, to the benefit of Haiti and other food insecure countries.
Dialogue concerning Haiti's development is changing. First, there is more discussion than ever before about Haiti's private sector, and a sense that trade will do more for Haiti in the long run than aid. Second, there is a growing emphasis on integrating Haiti economically and socially with the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America. Finally, donors are increasingly helping the Haitian government to address its own priorities. There are many challenges but also many possibilities. As Haitian say, little by little birds make their nests...
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton will visit Haiti March 9-10 to promote international aid for Haiti. According to UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy, ''Clearly it's a fragile situation in Haiti. There are still lots of difficulties but we think Haiti is winnable." Also noteworthy is that a long awaited donor conference has been set for April 13-14 and will be chaired by the Inter American Development Bank. Expect food security to be an important part of these discussions.
Even before the hurricanes, Haiti was in emergency mode. The rising costs of food and fuel prompted riots and former members of the Haitian military had re-emerged in the north. According to Haitian Agriculture Minister Joanas Gue, the agricultural system has been destroyed. In many parts of the country, staple crops such as rice, corn, plantains, and yams were lost. The poorest farmers need assistance to purchase the seeds, tools, fertilizers and agricultural inputs that will ensure the success of the next harvest. Until then, food security is tenuous.