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 News and opinions on situation in Haiti

HLLN - 30 July 2008:
Sustainable plantain production in Haiti is an important step towards food security | Haiti food aid lags, hunger deepens by Jonathan M. Katz | Lè marasa, lè mo e lè miste, Haitian cosmology

30 July 2008

Recommended HLLN Links:

Ezili’s Response to Lionel’s Questions on the Food Crisis and Firing of PM
Alexi: Creating New Paradigms – Why it’s critical to re-create and adapt the Ancestors’ Vodun Psychology by Ezili Danto, April 14, 2008

Ezili Dantò translates and analyzes the Vodun song -Going Back to Root – Lasous O M Pwale – I’m Returning to the Beginning/Source/Root

HLLN’s recommended links to US “free trade” fraud promoting famine in Haiti

Lè Marasa, Lè Mò e lè Mistè – is basic Haitian cosmology, basic Haitian trinity. It’s also a means of explaining the general process of manifestation. The concept of Lè Marasa, Lè Mò e lè Mistè is also allegorical for past, present, future. In the beginning, out of primordial space came Lè Marasa, the sacred twin – male/female, yin/yang, earth/sky, high/low, contraction/release, inhale/exhale, et al… The original twin had children and then, as time passed away, the Parent(s) died becoming Lè Mò – the Dead. Through the process of remembrance by their children (present) the most significant, useful, achievement/part of the Dead, if repeatedly raised up, will become, after untold generations of remembrances, irreducible essences, Lè Mistè – or the Lwa yo, divine archetypes. In authentic Haitian Vodun it is the good, useful and sacred (Bondye – Good Eye) achievement/part that is raised up and repeated and so that becomes Vodun’s irreducible essences, sacred Haitian archetypes – the Haitian gods. This is just a brief definition for the purposes of this essay and not all inclusive of the concept – literally/historically, mythological, metaphysically, metaphorically, or allegorically. One and one is three! (excerpted from Notes for – Going Back to Root – Lasous O M Pwale – I’m

Recommended HLLN Links (Energy and Mining in Haiti): The wealthy, powerful and well-armed are robbing the Haitian people blind

Is the UN military proxy occupation of Haiti masking US securing oil/gas reserves from Haiti

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Sustainable plantain production in Haiti is an important step towards food security By Gabrielle Wade, 28 July 2008, MEDIAGLOBAL

Haiti food aid lags, hunger deepens By JONATHAN M. KATZ – Jul 20, 2008

Sustainable plantain production in Haiti is an important step towards food security

By Gabrielle Wade

28 July 2008 [MEDIAGLOBAL]: With violent food riots in April, pledges of aid during the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Summit in June, and continually escalating food prices throughout the world, it is clear that Haiti is in desperate need of help to feed its people.

Although pledges of food aid seem generous, the Associated Press revealed that, as of early July, less than two percent of the U.S. food pledge had been distributed. The report indicated that large quantities of food had not reached distribution centers.

Given this alarming news, it is clear that Haiti’s answer does not lie in external food aid. Ultimately, Haitians must find a way to sustain food production and strengthen their agricultural sector without relying on external sources.

Haiti plantain farm

The Lambi Fund of Haiti, a not for profit organ-ization, whose mission is to assist the popular democratic movement in Haiti, aims to promote the social and economic empower- ment of the Haitian people by

Tending to plantain seedlings. (Photo courtesy: The Lambi Fund)

aiding them in two-year-long projects with the ability to be sustained.

Lambi Fund Deputy Director Leonie Hermantin told MediaGlobal, “in order to be funded a project has to be sustainable because we only stay in communities for two years. It has to be able to bring some economic benefit to the community.” She further explained that the way to ensure sustainability is to train locals in project management as well as skills that are project-specific.

Although the Lambi Fund was created in 1994, it is especially useful today given the current world food crisis. This past year, the Lambi Fund began a groundbreaking project based on plantain production in the Gwo Mon area of Haiti.

Hermantin explained that about two years ago, farmers from the Gwo Mon area approached the Lambi Fund for help because there was a high degree of deforestation in the area. The Fund got very involved with several organizations in the area, and one day they were approached by a group of plantain farmers.

In the past ten years, the spread of the Black Sigatoka fungus has contributed to the depletion of Haiti’s plantain production, as well as damaged plantain farms throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. When Lambi Fund members were in the Gwo Mon area, plantain farmers with fields plagued by the fungus approached them asking for help.

Hermantin said some of the agronomists working with the Fund were familiar with the disease. “They had been to workshops with some South Africans about the disease and how to create new healthy plantain trees.”

Even with some knowledge about the disease, it took the Fund about a year to create a nursery with healthy plantain trees. By partnering with local scientists and the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (ORE), a non-profit organization in Haiti, the Fund was able to develop a type of plantain tree resistant to Sigatoka as well as create a sustainable partnership with a group of community scientists.

Hermantin said the method used is additionally beneficial to locals because, “with one little offshoot of a plantain tree, you can make 60 trees and it takes less than six months. So we’ve been able to, in terms of security, not only produce a healthy plantain tree, but also allow farmers to rapidly produce plantain trees.”

Given the success of the created method, the Lambi Fund took on the project of creating the Center for Plantain Propagation to be a training place for community organizations wishing to learn plantain cultivation as well as an area where locals can purchase healthy plantain trees.

Hermantin said, “We’ve become a center where organizations have been coming in to get training for that healthy plantain tree.”


Haiti food aid lags, hunger deepens

By JONATHAN M. KATZ – Jul 20, 2008

DESCHAPELLES, Haiti (AP) — Every inch of Rivilade Filsame’s body hurt, from his swollen, empty stomach to his dried-out, wrinkled skin. The 18-month-old had been crying for so long in the hospital malnutrition ward that his mother no longer tried to console him.

After soaring food prices led to deadly riots in April, the U.S. and the U.N. promised millions of dollars in aid to poor families like Rivilade’s, as well as help for farmers to break Haiti’s dependence on imported food.

But three months later, The Associated Press has learned that only a fraction of a key U.S. food pledge — less than 2 percent as of early July — has been distributed.

Even those who oversee the food aid programs say they are stopgap measures while programs to create jobs and help Haitian farmers to increase production are more critical to ending the country’s chronic hunger once and for all.

But right now, aid workers say, the poorest families need immediate help, and little of the emergency food promised has reached them. Most of what has reached Haiti is stuck in port. Nearly all the rest is still inside warehouses — victim of high fuel prices, bad roads and a weak national government.

Barely any food at all has gone to the desperate countryside, where more than half of Haiti’s 8.7 million people live.

Even in the Artibonite Valley, Haiti’s most fertile region, child malnutrition is rampant. Farmers — reeling from last year’s floods and a dry spring, and lacking equipment that was promised to increase their yields — are eating the very seeds they should be planting to avoid future hunger.

One in three children is malnourished in the most rural areas of the Artibonite Valley, according to the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, where Rivilade was treated in June. Doctors there admitted 113 children to the malnutrition ward from May through June, almost two and a half times more than last year. In April and May alone, there were 361 children under five who were severely malnourished and more than 2,500 others moderately so.

“Kids who would have been moderately malnourished last year are severely malnourished this year,” said hospital official Adeline Azrack. “Families that were once just vulnerable are now in crisis.”

With families eating through their meager food savings and with the hurricane season in full swing, the food riots could be returning. On Thursday, U.N. police said, a small group of demonstrators burned tires and threw rocks at police and U.N. peacekeepers in Les Cayes, where the April riots began.

“Life is even more difficult than it was in April,” said Pierre Antoinier St.-Cyr, who works in agricultural development in Les Cayes. “Community organizations are meeting weekly to see if they are going to start the protests again.”

The April riots spread from the countryside to Port-au-Prince and left at least six Haitians and a U.N. peacekeeper dead. The prime minister was dismissed in their wake, and he still hasn’t been replaced.

They also caused an outpouring of international pledges. The U.S. government and U.N. World Food Program promised a combined total of $117 million this year in food and agricultural aid.

That included more than 40,000 tons of beans, rice and other food intended to quell the emergency. But a U.S. Agency for International Development report obtained by The Associated Press says that as of early July, less than 2 percent of that had been distributed.

Some 16,000 tons has reached Haiti. But more than 11,000 tons of that is still in port; nearly all the rest lies undistributed in World Vision International and Catholic Relief Services warehouses. Only 724 tons of food has reached distribution centers.

Haiti already had a customs bottleneck in its ports as officials cracked down on drug smuggling and tried to better collect duties.

In the Artibonite Valley, aid workers say not a single ration had arrived as of mid-July. Nor had any of the $150,000 in emergency seeds and tools promised to help 20,000 Haitian farmers nationwide plant basic food crops.

Hunger is a bitter irony in the valley known as “Haiti’s rice bowl,” where farms have been in decline for decades, unable to compete with subsidized U.S. food imported under low tariffs. Political instability has left the government without effective agricultural policies or ways to deal with nearly annual hurricanes and floods.

That meant there was no protection when the price of imported rice increased by more than 60 percent, and that of corn by 91 percent, over the first six months of the year, according to the World Food Program.

The U.N. agency and many countries’ programs are focused largely in urban areas. Brazilian soldiers have distributed rice, beans and cooking oil donated by their country in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil, where sprawling shantytowns are home to thousands of refugees from the impoverished countryside.

In rural communities where USAID food is slated to be distributed by World Vision International, delivery has been hampered by logistical problems and high fuel prices — which topped $6 a gallon in Haiti in June.

Nearly everything that has been distributed has gone through Catholic Relief Services, which has been relying on pre-existing stocks, said country representative Bill Canny.

World Vision country director Wesley Charles blamed USAID for its delays in delivering food, saying U.S. funding was held up in Congress’ emergency supplemental appropriations bill as lawmakers debated the portions that fund the Iraq War.

“I think that at the USAID level they need to be more sensitive,” Charles said. “You cannot manage an emergency situation like a normal procedure.”

The U.S. Embassy said there were also delays during the handover of the food distribution and agricultural projects to World Vision from its previous operator, Save the Children. It referred questions about distribution to those agencies.

Canny said U.S. food aid is also often slowed because it consists of excess food from American producers that must be purchased, transported and shipped, rather than bought locally in Haiti.

World Food Program spokesman Alejandro Lopez-Chicheri said it’s complicated to get food into Haiti, and that his agency is focusing on urban areas that are easiest to reach.

“We’re trying to help as much as we can, but that doesn’t mean we’ll solve everything,” he said.

When AP journalists visited the Artibonite Valley in June, farmers hacked at the soil using the same hand-planting methods employed centuries ago by their enslaved ancestors. Lemare Forrestal, a 60-year-old farmer in the mountains, said his family sometimes resorts to eating corn and bean seeds.

“We have kids we can’t feed. We have to eat what we have,” he said.

And even when there is food, mothers leave their children at home while they seek work in far-off markets with no one to ensure they eat properly.

Sylvieta Saintera, 38, said her 8-year-old daughter cooks for her six other children when she’s gone.

Hunger victims filled the low-slung, tree-lined Schweitzer hospital complex in June. Flies buzzed from bed to bed as mothers spoon-fed vegetable mixtures prepared over charcoal fires in an outdoor kitchen.

A photo of Rivilade from months earlier showed a baby with fat arms and black hair. But his bald, naked body was covered with an old man’s wrinkled skin. Diarrhea had shrunk his weight to 15 pounds, a quarter less than doctors say is healthy.

“He was fine, and then he got sick,” said his mother, 22-year-old Nimose Jisesle. It costs 150 Haitian gourdes a week — $3.95 — to feed him, she said, but she earns just 100 gourdes, $2.63, selling knapsacks and firewood. His father went to the neighboring Dominican Republic to find work and does not support the child.

Suffering from diarrhea, pneumonia and mouth and skin infections, Rivilade was treated and fed with intravenous liquids and food. He was released a few days later with his weight up and diarrhea gone, said Dr. Erlantz Hyppolite.

Some of the children receive a super-high-protein mixture of peanut butter, oil, milk and vitamins known here as “Medika Mamba” that has also been used in African famines. But once they go home, mothers struggle to follow doctors’ advice to thoroughly clean their homes and prepare more balanced meals for their children, Hyppolite said.

Some, he said, eat the peanut butter mixture themselves.

Forwarded by Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

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