Why Free Rice Went Wrong

Since the earthquake, the international community has rallied around Haiti with aid, relief and reconstruction operations, not to mention plenty of good will. But some of this good will has proven to be misguided, especially as it relates to food aid.

Emerging reports are verifying what civil society groups have been saying for years: the influx of cheap U.S. rice as food aid is disrupting local agricultural markets. In many rural areas in Haiti, farmland remained intact after the earthquake. But the well-intentioned introduction of free U.S. rice now threatens to undercut the ability of local farmers to sell their crops, depriving them of their livelihoods at a time when strengthening the country’s agricultural sector is key to overall recovery.

Even our former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is currently U.N. special envoy to Haiti, has publicly apologized for “championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production.” Pretty stunning from the guy who passed NAFTA!

As recovery moves forward, the U.S. should work with local Haitian farmers and partners to prioritize local and regional food sources, while promoting agricultural development that will foster Haiti’s ability to feed its own people.