Wednesday, March 19, 2014

”Extreme Emergency” in Drought-Hit Haitian Region

When referring to the affects of weather on Haiti one probably thinks of hurricanes and other tropical storms ravaging the Caribbean nation.  Yet northeastern Haiti has been hit by a doughty so severe that one government official called the situation an “extreme emergency.”

According to Pierre Gary Mathieu, representative of Haiti’s National Coordination of Food Security (CNSA), the drought has lasted eight months and has led to the loss of two harvest seasons. As a result, farmers have been forced to travel farther in order to obtain water while some schools where meals are provided to impoverished students do not have water or food.

“People need jobs immediately but they also need food,” Mathieu said to the Associated Press (AP) in an article published on Wednesday.

Even though some rain has fallen recently in the affected area, Mathieu believes that it will take at least six months for a recovery to occur.  Nevertheless, government officials are expected to meet tomorrow with international aid workers in order to plan out a proper response to the drought affected area.  (A World Food Program spokesman told the AP that the organization would send food kits containing rice, beans and cooking oil to some 120,000 people in northwestern Haiti).

The latest CNSA outlook for the first six months of this year concluded that the drought may not affect national food production and availability yet could cause a “deterioration” in food security in dry areas.  For example, Haiti has imported thousands of tons of rice from Vietnam to satisfy local demand yet rice farmers in areas like Maribaroux and Fort Liberté have experienced difficulties due to “the lack of water in irrigation systems.”

A 2013 World Bank report entitled “Agricultural Risk Management in the Caribbean” noted that Haiti’s agricultural sector is vulnerable to problems such as “major climatic hazards” and “increased natural risks” due to environmental degradation.  Thus, the study made several recommendations to improve the agricultural industry:
It would be important to increase public funds dedicated to emergencies, with a roll-over mechanism; that is, for the years that the funds are not being used, the extra money would continue to accumulate.

The document emphasizes that predetermined rules for disbursement would be important in order to reduce corruption.

The data of the global agriculture census could register vulnerable farmers, helping the authorities to identify those most affected by natural events.

It also recommends strengthen the quality and quantity of weather data, as well as invest more in infrastructure and improve the regulatory and legal framework for the development of market-based instruments for agricultural risk management.
Video Source– YouTube user IRINFILMS (Food prices have risen sharply in Haiti since a major earthquake hit in 2010).

Online Sources –; NBC News; Haitian National Coordination of Food Security; The Latin Americanist

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