The aftershocks of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 are not only being felt by those nearest the epicenter.
The latest disaster not only has left six hundred and fifty thousand people needing immediate assistance but also has exposed the country’s more than one million farming families, who depend on a precarious rural economy. While aid agencies are scrambling to distribute the World Food Programme’s pre-positioned food and import additional supplies, farmers are facing the possibility of their ready harvests of staple crops going to waste. The result is loss of market opportunity, incomes, and the chance to sustain their livelihoods long enough to support Haiti’s economic recovery.
If the lingering effects of the last major earthquake, which displaced 1.5 million people in 2010, are any indication, the full impact could be devastating for the country’s food producers, their families, and communities, who lose out twice: first to the damage from the earthquake and then to the subsequent short-term influx of cheap imported food.
Before this latest earthquake, almost half the country, or 4.4 million people, faced food insecurity, while an even greater proportion — including an estimated 90 percent of the rural population — were living below the poverty line. Given that 60 percent of rural families rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, it follows that any shocks that impact food markets will also have a lasting impact on their economic security and well-being.
Conversely, supporting this key sector now and in the long-term is a fast-track way to tackle poverty, hunger, health disparities, and inequality and build resilience to the secondary impacts of natural disasters.
To learn the lessons of 2010, the international community, including donors like USAID, should be making full use of Haiti’s existing food system, not circumventing it, to find local solutions to local challenges. At the same time, it should also be issuing a rallying cry for long-term sustainable agricultural investment.
Read the full article about long-term sustainable investment by Frank Giustra at PhilanTopic.
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