During a recent visit to Haiti, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that Haiti is at a ''tipping point'' given the billion dollars of damage caused by flooding from tropical storms. For the first time in years, Haiti has a legitimately democratic, albeit struggling, government. Given the World Bank's problematic history in Haiti, the agency should help the government by forgiving its debt -with the caveat that funds would be subject to external oversight and directed to disaster preparedness and response as well as reviving the agricultural sector.
We frequently receive inquiries concerning the use of Jatropha as a biofuel in Haiti. So far, cultivation has been limited to a handfull of pilot projects. This blog lists these organizations and summarizes several recent articles on the subject. A previous blog on biodiesel resulted in over 225 comments from people throughout the world interested in Jatropha. If you are interested specifically in jatropha cultivation in Haiti, please post a comment describing your interests. In that way, this blog can become a conversation about tapping the potential of Jatropha for Haiti.
The damage caused by Gustav and Hannah have set Haiti back years. Many have lost their homes and livelihoods. Food security, already precarious, is worse as crops have been destroyed, fruit trees knocked over, and livestock killed. Gonaives, ever prone to flooding, bore the brunt but many other cities and towns were damaged and need assistance. The implications are being felt nationwide. Haiti needs its friends during the long recovery process.
Disagreements among parliamentarians and political parties over who will serve in the new government have prevented Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis from presenting a new Cabinet and policy priorities (one of which is food security) on Tuesday as scheduled. As politicians bicker, the people struggle. The Miami Herald notes that school starts on September 1st and the fees will be out of reach for many. According to the USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET), food security conditions are likely to deteroriate beginning in October due to the high prices of staple food crops, hurricanes, civil unrest, and high transportation costs. Having been four months without a functional government, it is long past time to make a deal and get to work.
After four months of debate, the Haitian Senate finally ratified a Prime Minister. Michèle Pierre-Louis becomes only the second female in Haitian history to hold the post. This delay has had a high cost in the form of delayed infrastructure projects, delayed trade deals, and underminded confidence as to whether the country is ready to open a new chapter on governance. The Miami Herald notes under Haiti's constitution, Pierre-Louis must next present a governance plan and cabinet selections to parliament. We hope food security features prominently in the proposed plan - her tenure will largely be evaluated on whether she can accomplish the delicate balancing act of putting in place short term measures while working on long term solutions.
Maybe I should call this blog the Fuel Security update instead. The big news this past week was the elimination of the government gasoline subsidy which drove fuel prices up to over six dollars a gallon. With limited funds and infinite needs, the government decided to focus its attention on agriculture and other programs to fight poverty. However, transporting food and other commodities (or oneself if seeking health care) is less affordable now and out of reach for many. The tap-taps are all charging more. Also, the price hike is eating into the budgets of the international and non-governmental organizations which are active throughout the country. More money on fuel means less for programs.
It seems as if everyone except Haiti's Deputies are desperate for Haiti to have a Prime Minister, and thus, a functional government. Preval has named his second choice - Robert "Bob" Manuel, a close colleague and previous Secretary of State for Public Security. His chances aren't great and donors are concerned. According to the Miami Herald, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is visiting Haiti to discuss the progress of various bilateral technical programs, such as a food program where Brazil has donated $200,000 and a trash collection program. Undoubtedly, they willl discuss the political impasse as well. If this doesn't work, we may need to send in reinforcements - the much revered Brazilian soccer team.
The big news over the past week was that Ericq Pierre, Preval's selection for Prime Minister, did not make it through the nomination process. According to a release by Pierre, he was unwilling to promise positions and favors in exchange for political support. Some have hailed him for his integrity while others have criticized him for not knowing how to "play the game." To any extent, no Prime Minister means no functional government and thus no new policies. Donors, international and non governmental organizations and a financially stretched Diaspora continue to do what they can to help. Below is a summary of other items of interest concerning food security.
Below is an update concerning food security in Haiti. First though, I read an interesting article in the Miami Herald about the critical role of coordination in Haiti relief efforts. In fact, it notes that an uncoordinated flow of aid can cause harm, particular in a setting like Haiti where food is plentiful on store shelves but most people can't afford it because of high unemployment and global price hikes. The best way to help Haiti right now is to contribute to both the organizations that can make a difference now and those that can help Haiti become self-reliant over the long-term.