Staff from Zanmi Agrikol working to prepare fields for an emergency harvest of maize.

 

The cost of a bag of rice has increased dramatically in the weeks since the January 12th earthquake, reports PIH Clinical Director Louise Ivers. The forty-plus percent markup, from $30 USD (1,207 Haitian Gourdes) to $42 USD (1,690 Haitian Gourdes) for a 25 kg (55.1lbs) sack, offers further evidence that the people of Haiti will face a variety of post-quake difficulties as the prices of staple foods continue to rise.

Over half the population of Haiti lives on less than $1 per day. Families already under difficulty trying to feed their own households are being asked to take in others—sometimes numbering up to 25 people—including relatives and neighbors who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and breadwinning-family members in the earthquake.

Access to long-term employment opportunities have all but disappeared following the earthquake. And both small urban gardens located in the city, as well as road and air access to larger outlying farms were destroyed. What little stock there is will surely be depleted in 3 months, say PIH experts, and the period between then and the first normal harvest will be desperate. Food aid may well be available in Port-au-Prince, although staff working in the city have yet to see any evidence of it. What aid there is will likely only be a short-term band-aid.

PIH/Zanmi Lasante and our agricultural sister organization Zanmi Agrikol, have come up with a plan to try and relieve this situation and bring first harvests of food to the region in as little as 3 months. This emergency initiative is working to identify all lands that are not currently under cultivation, or lying fallow. The team will then prepare and plant a series of crops that, with the help of fertilizers and water from irrigation (as it is currently Haiti’s dry season) will be harvested in three months.

Haiti last experienced a food crisis in 2008 when the price of rice rose 141% in the space of a few months, creating immense hardship and exacerbating pediatric malnutrition. Read more.

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