Almost half of all Haitians are going hungry, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC report, for the country. Organizations large and small are investing in local farmers, local economies, and agroecology so that Haitians can feed themselves in the long term.

“Almost 5 million Haitians are food insecure and require immediate assistance. That’s about half of the population,” Jean Martin Bauer, the country director of Haiti for the World Food Programme (WFP) tells Food Tank.

The IPC report shows that Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. And last year, WFP announced that the levels of hunger and malnutrition in Haiti reached levels never seen before.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the World Bank reports. Inflation is leading families to cut back on meals and farmers to cut back on seeds and fertilizers. And according to the Security Council Report, since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, Haiti’s government has deteriorated further.

In addition to political and economic stressors in Haiti, environmental degradation and the climate crisis are exacerbating the impact of natural disasters on Haiti’s agriculture sector. But the causes of food insecurity go much deeper, Cantave Jean-Baptiste, Director of Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL), tells Food Tank. “Hunger in Haiti is not an accident. It is a social and political production,” says Jean-Baptiste.

Jean-Baptiste has been working with smallholder farmers across the country to promote agroecology as a solution to hunger and poverty for four decades. He tells Food Tank that centuries of imperialism and neo-imperialism are enormous factors in Haiti’s current hunger crisis.

In 1825, after Haitians revolted and overthrew their French colonists, Haiti was forced to pay 150 millions francs—equivalent to US$21 billion dollars today—in reparations to France. The Haitian economy remained shackled to this debt for 150 years, and Haiti’s agricultural development was severely stunted as a result.

Haiti is also still dealing with the consequences of neoliberal trade policies from the 80s and 90s which crippled certain agricultural industries. In 1994, the International Monetary Fund forced Haiti to reduce their tariff on rice from 35 percent to 3 percent overnight.

Read the full article about food sovereignty in Haiti by Ian Muir Smith at Food Tank.