In the wake of January's devastating earthquake, Haitian families are still struggling to find food - even as they face further damage from the approaching rainy season.
President Obama has asked Congress to approve a supplementary budget that would provide more aid to Haiti. If the food aid is given as cash, this could be a chance for Haitian farmers to restart their livelihoods and break the country's dependence on imported food.
While food aid is needed in the short term to avert hunger, as Haiti rebuilds, Haitian farmers around the countryside could be the ones feeding the people in Port-au-Prince.
The president's budget request could fix this broken system by helping Haiti rebuild itself from the inside out.
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Photo Credit: UN Photo/Sophia Paris
This budget request is a remarkable opportunity to help Haiti rebuild itself from the inside out by supporting local farmers who can feed their country.
Thirty years ago, Haitians produced most of the food they consumed. After white rice subsidized by the U.S. government began flooding the market in 1986, Haiti’s farming tradition weakened, leaving the country increasingly dependent on imported food. The devastating consequences of this dependence became impossible to ignore in April 2008, when hundreds of thousands of Haitians protested rising prices of imported food, paralyzing the country with roadblocks and forcing the ouster of the prime minister.
The earthquake could exacerbate Haiti's dependence on U.S. imports and foreign aid. White rice from the United States has been a key part of the humanitarian aid response so far. While food aid is needed in the short term to avert hunger, as Haiti rebuilds, Haitian farmers around the countryside could be the ones feeding the people in Port-au-Prince. But they’re hampered by the absence of credit, antiquated tools, damaged irrigation systems, prohibitively high fertilizer prices, and subsidized ‘Miami rice’ that undercuts their sales.
The president’s budget request could fix this broken system. As a Member of Congress, you have a chance to help Haiti rebuild itself from the inside out. I hope I can count on you to support the President’s supplemental request for Haiti and cash for food aid.
Thank you for your time and attention.