Haiti: seeding recovery in the countryside

Friday, May 21, 2010

  • Finger prints - PetitGoaveFood distribution Maria Halava/ACT
  • DistributionFood distribution Maria Halava/ACT
  • Distribution 2Food distribution Maria Halava/ACT

by Maria Halava

In the early morning sunshine in the commune of Petit Gôave, 68km southwest of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, hundreds of people wait. A distribution of seeds by ACT Alliance will take place any minute.

People have come from mountainous areas surrounding Petit Goâve, areas significantly hit by the earthquake. Most arrived in Petit Goâve hours ago.

The Lutheran World Federation, an ACT member, is distributing maize and bean seeds to the most vulnerable people in the area - the elderly, people from single parent households or families with many children. They are all members of a farmers' association and were selected by that association to receive seeds, LWF agronomist Plancher Rolnick says.

Seeds will give crop in late summer

When distribution starts, people are called by name to come forward in groups of three. One group is given 50kg of beans, which is to be shared among three families, and 50kg of maize for nine families.

Yvès Raymond, a young farmer from the mountains, is among the first to get seeds. At noon, he leaves for home. "I left home by midnight and arrived here at 5am,” he says. After queuing for several hours, he now has four measures of bean seeds and one of maize. He faces a long walk home under the blazing sunshine.

Like everyone else, Yvès Raymond will plant his seeds in June after the heavy rains. In this way, he will be able to harvest the crop in August-September.

Joseph Galnave Norre, coordinator of a farmers’ association, says that for most people the crop will only cover the needs of their families. ”Those who get some surplus sell it at the market. Some people even go to Port-au-Prince to get a better price.”

Food production needs to be kept going

Haiti’s food security situation was fragile long before the earthquake. Decades of insufficient food production left Haitians highly dependent on imports. Since the earthquake an influx of people from Port-au-Prince to rural areas has meant rural dwellers are forced to share their food with those who have fled the capital. Sixty percent of the population lives in rural areas and under the poverty line of less than two dollars a day. Keeping food production going is extremely important for farmers.

In Petit Goâve, people are relieved to get the seeds from ACT. ”My parents do not have jobs at the moment, so we have had to find other ways to survive,” Lidor Roseline, a 16-year-old girl says.

The family with four children is living in a temporary shelter as the family home was damaged in the earthquake. The maize and bean seeds given by ACT are used only for subsistence, as are the other vegetables the family grows.

Seed distribution "will produce a good harvest”

In rural areas, many farmers lack cash to buy seeds and food prices have already gone up since the earthquake. ”Seed distribution is very welcome here, since it will give people a good harvest,” Joseph Galnave Norre, from a farmers’ association, says.

Aid work is not always trouble-free. The distribution was initially planned to take place a week earlier but problems with logistics forced its postponement.

People who arrived in Petit Goâve in vain last week are now worried that there won’t be enough seeds for everybody today. ”This time we made sure that the truck with the seeds was already in place when the distribution was about to start,” Plancher Rolnick says.

By the end of the day, 1300 farmers have received seeds. The last 200 still need to wait until the next morning.

After the distribution, ACT will see that the seeds are shared equally among the designated families. Meanwhile, it will keep distributing other items in different parts of the country as it has done since the earthquake.

Haiti: after the earthquake

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