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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Officials grapple with ways to deal with problem, provide shelter for thousands of minors among illegal border crossers
More

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Legal school segregation ended in the US 60 years ago, but research project finds it still occurs based on income and race
More

Cuban Tourism Industry Stalls in 2013; Up 3.9 Percent Through June

Statistics seen as latest indication of general slowdown in country's economy
More

Video US Senate Advances Bill to Address Border Crisis

Legislation would authorize funds to house, process tens of thousands of undocumented Central American minors arriving at southern border, but faces many hurdles
More

Urbanization Can Bring Health Risks

Researchers warn of increase in heart disease, diabetes
More

US Restricts Travel by Venezuelan Government Officials

Restriction to apply to officials the State Department links to human rights abuses in government crackdown on protest and dissent
More