News / Americas

Agriculture Short-Changed in Haiti's Post-Quake Recovery

Lack of rural jobs threatens reconstruction effort

Rural jobs would improve food supplies and prevent crowding in Haiti's capital.
Rural jobs would improve food supplies and prevent crowding in Haiti's capital.

Multimedia

Audio

After a powerful earthquake struck Haiti in January, boosting agricultural production was seen as one of the keys to the nation's recovery.

Six months later, the U.N. Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) says only half the funding pledged for agriculture has been delivered.

Experts say short-changing food production is a common problem in many humanitarian crises and, in Haiti, it threatens to undermine the nation's already-troubled recovery.

Rural help wanted

When the earthquake ravaged Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, an estimated 600,000 people fled for the countryside.

The flood of people put tremendous strain on their hosts. Experts believe one of the best ways for the rural areas to cope with the new arrivals would be to create jobs boosting food production.

In a country where more than half the population was undernourished before the earthquake, the extra hands could be put to good use.

"But it definitely is not happening like everybody had hoped," says Keith Flanagan with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. He and others hoped to see large-scale irrigation, reforestation and other projects that would help farmers grow more food.

But, for the most part, he sees a lot of people being paid to sweep the streets.

"Tomorrow it's going to look just like it did yesterday," he says. "It is better than a handout, but I think there are things that can make a more lasting impact."

Back to Port-au-Prince

Most of the reconstruction activity so far has been focused on Port-au-Prince.

"If all the investment now will be done in the city where there are huge needs to reconstruct all the infrastructure, where there will be a lot of demand in terms of construction work, then you will have again a pull effect from the rural areas back into a city that is not ready to absorb a lot more people than they have today," says Christina Amaral, FAO's emergency operations chief.

Port-au-Prince was overcrowded before the earthquake. The mass exodus from the capital presented an opportunity to relieve the strain. Now, concern is growing that that opportunity is slipping away.  

The United Nations requested $60 million in emergency reconstruction aid for agriculture. It's a tiny sliver of the total aid package of $1.6 billion the UN had asked for. But six months later, only about half of the funding for agriculture has come through.

Urban bias

That's no big surprise to Marc Cohen, a policy researcher with the humanitarian aid group, Oxfam.

"If you look across the United Nations humanitarian appeals, pretty consistently agriculture gets short-funded," he says.

Cohen says part of the problem is an urban bias among policy elites in both the donor and affected countries. He adds that donors get much more immediate and visible results from relief like education, medical care and direct food aid.

"If you're feeding people, you can see the direct impact," he says. "Whereas if you send seeds, they have to be planted, they have to cultivated, they have to be harvested before there's an impact."

But the impact does come, says Cohen, noting that more than 100,000 farm families will soon be harvesting crops grown with seeds, fertilizer and tools donated to help them cope with the earthquake's aftermath.

The FAO planned to help 25,000 more families, but ran out of funds.

Long-term plans

In the longer term, the Haitian government has a $700 million plan to create rural jobs while improving food supplies.

Those programs are expected to begin in the coming months. The World Bank and the United States are making major contributions.

But, in the meantime, people are beginning to drift back into Port-au-Prince, amid concerns that the opportunity to rebuild a less crowded capital and boost the rural economy may be fading.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Haiti Struggles to Stem Cholera as Rains Come Early

From January to April this year, 14,226 Haitians infected with cholera - triple the number of cases from the same period last year, with Port-au-Prince hardest hit
More

US Takes Cuba Off Terrorism List

Move is part of effort to thaw Washington-Havana ties that were frozen for more than 50 years
More

Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies in Canada

Vladimir Katriuk, 93, had denied allegations that he took part in killings of civilians in Soviet village of Khatyn, now part of Belarus
More

Allies, Ex-players, Fans Abroad Cheer US Move Against FIFA

Soccer devotees flood Twitter with praise, ask why countries with richer traditions in the sport had ignored suspicions of corruption for so long
More

Soccer Great Pele to Join New York Cosmos on Cuban Trip

Goodwill mission will include exhibition match between Cosmos, Cuban national team
More

Researchers: No Foul Play in Death of Chilean Poet Neruda

Chilean government reopened investigation into Neruda's death in January, with new tests designed to look for protein damage caused by poisoning
More