Imagine being chronically hungry, and then, after finally receiving a long-awaited plate of food, eating just one bean. According to The New York Times, this is precisely what happened to Maxi Extralien, a starving Haitian boy who received food from a Haitian civic group in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. In the face of extreme food insecurity, thousands of other children like Maxi face the same dire situation: rationing one bean at a time to make food last as long as it possibly can.
The New York Times reports:
“The communal rationing, along with signs all over the city that say ‘S O S’ and ‘we need food,’ suggests that the food crisis here is growing. In a country where malnutrition was common even before the earthquake, the United Nations now estimates that two million Haitians need immediate food assistance. And despite frantic efforts by aid groups, distribution has been limited. As of Saturday, the World Food Program had reached 207,392 people in Port-au-Prince and 113,313 in other areas. Compounding the problem, Haiti’s commercial food supply has been strangled by the earthquake’s damage. Fruits and vegetables from the countryside are still available, but in smaller quantities, at inflated prices.”
Haiti was a food insecure country long before the earthquake. But in light of the tremendous devastation and the complete collapse of infrastructure, making sure that Haitians get the food they need to survive is now even harder. The New York Times article is a stinging reminder that direct service and aid is simply not enough. What happens when emergency aid runs dry? We need to think about long-term, sustainable strategies for replanting crops and farms to replenish Haiti’s local food supply and provide a source of income to Haitian farmers. Fortunately, organizations like Lambi Fund, are already doing this. A long-time AJWS grantee, Lambi Fund donates high-quality seeds to two women’s peasant organizations to help them build seed banks for farming communities. The Fund supports projects that focus on agricultural development, crop diversification, grain storage and agricultural processing as well as organizational development.
Since the earthquake, Lambi Fund has been responding to an out-migration to rural areas by helping members of peasant groups get food and essentials for their families to re-establish their lives. The Fund is also providing seeds, tools and equipment for peasant groups to plant more crops to feed rural communities, and is rebuilding grain mills, sugar cane mills, rainwater cisterns for safe drinking water, and other economic development community enterprises lost in the earthquake. These buildings are the centers of communities’ economic livelihoods. Additionally, Lambi Fund is recapitalizing micro-credit funds run by grassroots organizations so that people can replenish and continue their small businesses.
Restoring Haiti’s food supply will take years, but with the vision and energy of local Haitian organizations, we’re that much closer to ensuring that change is sustainable.