By Ricardo Flores
Haitian agriculture is struggling: natural disasters and human mismanagement have caused many setbacks. Deforestation has left only 3% of the forest remaining, leaving soil vulnerable to erosion from weather and less fertile. Poor farming techniques and the lack of waste and water management add to the pressure on Haitian agriculture. Powerful international influences also play a role in worsening the situation through neocolonialism, when powerful countries exploit lesser developed ones.
Neocolonialism is a serious issue for many Haiti farmers. Most of them barely subsist on small plots of land. In the presence of foreign competitors, farmers struggle to sell their crops and sustain their vital income. In the past, the US has flooded the Haitian markets with rice, forcing the already stressed farmers to compete with artificially low prices that benefited US farmers but sent rice production in Haiti plummeting. The US pressured Haiti to open its markets flooded it, causing many Haitian producers of this staple crop to lose their income, thus exacerbating the poverty of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
A similar agricultural disaster looms on a slightly smaller scale with the proposed “donation” by the USDA of 500 metric tons of surplus American peanuts. The surplus is the result of agricultural subsidies protecting US farmers during a time of reduced domestic demand. The “donation” has been offered to address malnutrition in Haiti, but Haitian farmers and foreign NGOs operating in Haiti argue that it is only a short-term solution which will destroy the market for Haitian peanuts, impoverish farmers, and increase Haiti’s dependence on foreign imports in the long term. Click here for additional information.
Haiti has experienced much political turmoil over the last few years, culminating in a recent electoral crisis that has paralyzed its fragile government. To understand the problem, it’s important to realize how different and complex their electoral system is and how much corruption affects its results.
The Haitian government is a republic with a president, prime minister and a legislature. The president is elected in a two round voting system in which only the two candidates with the most votes from the first election may participate in the second round. Haiti’s first round of presidential elections (involving 55 candidates) on October 25, 2015 immediately sparked riots and protests over multiple allegations of intimidation and fraud. The second round of elections has subsequently been delayed. Should the claims be validated, the presidential candidates moving onto the second round would change. Jovenel Moïse, former President Michel Martelly’s hand-picked candidate, had the highest percent of the votes at 32.81%. However, according to an Igarapé Institute exit poll, he only gained about 6% of actual votes, placing him fourth and ineligible for the presidential runoff. The many political actors and conflicting interests have made it difficult to agree on the second round of voting.
Former President Martelly left office February 7th without an elected successor. Hours before his departure, he and both houses of the National Assembly agreed upon a last minute deal that implemented a provisional government until runoff elections take place. In late April 2016, the provisional government created the Evaluation and Electoral Verification Commission (CIEVE) to check the validity of the votes and determine which candidates should participate in the runoff election. This commission was given 30 days to complete their task and has been under pressure from Moïse, his PHTK Party, and other vested interests who want the results of the initial election to remain unchanged.
Since then, CIEVE has discredited the results of the first round on the basis of electoral fraud and invalid ballots. The U.S. urges quick resolution of this election issue but despite the opposition of the PHTK Party, Moïse, and former President Martelly, CIEVE has scheduled new rounds of elections on October 9, 2016 and January 8, 2017.
Adding to the confusion, the interim presidency of Jocelerme Privert, expired on June 14, 2016. Officially no one is sure who is in charge but, for now, Privert continues to act as the de facto president.
Electricity in Haiti is a fragile and politicized commodity. Jacmel used to have reliable electricity day and night but now we are limited to no more than 4 hours a day. It comes on at 2 a.m.! Most schools don’t have electricity at all and businesses must rely on generators during the day. Homes have little light at night. That impacts education: it’s hard for children to do their homework after sundown at 5:30 p.m. Southport, CT residents Virginia Arndt and Jane Dean have taken creative steps to help 162 of HEI’s scholarship and after school students with this problem. Assisted by Elen Kentnor and Butzi Moffitt, they sponsored Spread the Light!, a scarf swop to raise funds for solar powered lights offered by Unite to Light at $8 a piece. The first 100 lights will be delivered in late May! There are so many obstacles to getting an education in Haiti, and we are very grateful to Ginny, Jane and their friends for making life easier for our students.
In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof cites studies that document the power of hope in lifting people out of extreme poverty. When poor people learn that their own actions can lead to improvements in their standard of living, their mental, physical and financial states measurably rise. The path to change can vary – raising chickens, going to school, starting a small business – but identifying the new path and understanding its potential impact is critical. That is what we are doing in Jacmel by educating children and providing job training. Already our 185 kids are using their new skills to improve their families’ living conditions and making plans to support themselves when they graduate from school. Thank you, everyone who contributes to this “graduation” from poverty in Haiti! You are giving hope and a hand up, not a handout – there’s a world of long-term difference! Click here to read the full article.
Our courtyard rings with teasing and laughter after school and on weekends. For many of our students, the day begins with a light breakfast of cornmeal or rice and beans, then a long walk to class. After school, 100 CASED students walk to one of our two downtown locations, where they revive with a tasty snack and cold drink, complete their homework under the supervision of our tutors, and engage in some good fun. Songs, educational games, calisthenics and normal horseplay help work off steam before the walk home at dusk.
Thank you donors, volunteers and friends, for making it all possible!
Please give the gift of education to an impoverished child who could not attend without your help. Your contribution of $150 or more will provide everything a child needs to enroll in a local school: tuition fees, uniforms, shoes, backpacks, books and school supplies. Education is the most effective way to build a better Haiti. CLICK HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your help!
50% of Haitian children have no access to education. Only half the country’s adults can read.
Tuesday, December 1 is #GivingTuesday, the national day of philanthropy. We hope you will take this opportunity to give the gift of education to a Haitian child who could not attend without your help. Education is the best way to change the world for the better and we are starting on America’s doorstep. Your donation to HEI will provide scholarships, food, after-school tutoring and job training to severely impoverished kids in Jacmel. We currently serve 185 children. Won’t you help us transform their lives – and over time, their country? CLICK HERE to support a child today! Thank you.
Presidential, legislative and local elections will take place this Sunday, October 25. The country desperately needs a strong leader with a majority in the legislature to bring about constructive changes. Click here fore details from The Economist.
Tensions with the Dominican Republic regarding the status of Haitian workers there affect the small traders called “Madam Saras” who cross the border to bring vital goods home to Haiti. This is the kind of small commercial enterprise that feeds families and pays school bills in our area. Its restriction imposes great hardship on the people who depend on this food and merchandise for their livelihoods. Read about the Madam Saras here.