The people of Haiti continue their uphill struggle since an earthquake devastated their country more than two years ago. While many aid organizations have left, AJWS more than doubled its support in 2011. We're now funding 40 grantees in Haiti and, so far, have spent $3 million on long-term relief and recovery.
AJWS's grantees in Haiti are assisting people in the IDP camps and teaching skills that will lead to jobs. They are improving improving health care and education for the rural poor and helping farmers rebound so that Haiti can grow its own food. Together, these Haitian organizations are helping their own people recover.
In addition to providing services, AJWS's grantees in Haiti are striving to heal their country from the inside out by advocating for human rights and working to create stronger and more resilient communities. We believe that securing human rights is the first step to sustainable change, and this approach is at the heart of what we do in every country where we work.
In Haiti, one of the central human rights challenges is the struggle for food security. Haiti once produced more than half of its own food, but it has suffered a steep agricultural decline over the past several decades. Many factors have contributed to the country's eroding ability to feed itself, including failure by the Haitian government to support local agriculture and its acceptance of free trade agreements that introduced unfair competition between Haitian farmers and American agribusiness. But one of the most unlikely culprits has been flawed U.S. food aid policy.
In the 1990s, to help the struggling country feed its people, the U.S. government started sending food to Haiti. It sent American surplus grain instead of cash, since U.S. law stipulates that the bulk of American food aid must be shipped from the U.S. instead of procured close to where it's needed. While the food aid provided valuable short-term relief, it simultaneously undercut local farmers, increasing Haiti's dependence on aid. After the earthquake, American food aid again saved many lives, but it missed a vital opportunity to help the few remaining farms in Haiti grow stronger; instead, it competed with them.
Thirty percent of our grantees in Haiti spent 2011 working on food security and land rights. Take Partnership for Local Development (PDL), which has trained more than 1,000 Haitian farmers to plant and grow more food and has established seed banks and grain silos to jumpstart local farms. With AJWS's support, PDL has also become a leader in the Haitian food justice movement. It advocates for small-scale farmers to be included in Haiti's development plans and went to Washington to push for changes to U.S. food aid policy that will promote the long-term recovery of Haiti's food security.
AJWS has also spent 2011 working on this issue in the U.S. Through our Reverse Hunger campaign, we have mobilized American Jews in a community-wide effort to advocate for reforms to the U.S. Farm Bill so that our food aid dollars can be spent purchasing food from local farmers. In this way, we're striving to restore food security in Haiti and around the world.
To learn more about our grantees in Haiti, check out our two-year report on earthquake relief (PDF).
To read about AJWS's advocacy for Haiti in the U.S. Congress, skip to Advocating on the Hill.
Inspired by Judaism's commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.
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