December 1, 2008

Famine in Haiti

The idea that the serious hunger crisis in Haiti is a matter of the recent hurricanes flooding out the rice fields laying below deforested hillsides is only telling part of the truth. Haiti was self-sufficient in rice 30 years ago. There have been many years of serious nutritional deficiencies culminating in this threatening famine, and it is caused in great part by a determined undermining of local farming, peasant organizations and democratically elected governments that provided infrastructure for farming and the local food system. U.S. rice (subsidized at $1.3 million per annum) flood Haiti and international lenders prohibit local rice subsidies. It is a huge, sad, under-reported story that Canada shares a role in. If you want to read about the history of oppression in Haiti, find Paul Farmer's book, The Uses of Haiti in a library - and if they don't have it, ask them to get it.
In all that tragedy there are a few inspiring gems of hope when it comes to collective farming and the persistence of women to fight for self-sufficiency in food. I spent some time looking for the stories I read a few months ago about these grassroots women farmers growing tradtional foods - damn if I can find them now. Stay tuned I'll persist or would love help if anyone else knows of hopeful developments toward food security in Haiti.

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