- In Haiti, 6.7 million people – 2/3rds of the population – struggle daily to meet their food needs.
- The U.S. has spent $200 million giving food aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Since 1954, the U.S. has spent $1.5 billion on aid to Haiti.
- The U.S. is one of the world’s only “Food Dumpers,” continually sending food instead of buying locally produced food in the regions it is helping.
- The current U.S. food aid policy is hurting Haitian farmers and the potential for Haiti to return to its former capabilities of producing enough food for its own population.
- Venezuela’s “Down with Hunger” program gave $30 million to 60,000 mothers to both buy food for their families and distribute seeds to farmers.
“Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to the poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked.” –Bill ClintonHaiti is now struggling under immense financial pressures that are driving farmers to focus their energy on export crops. Thus, Haiti is in a situation where its farmers produce mangoes and purchase US-grown rice with their earnings. Hardly a sensible system for a country capable of producing its own food and avoiding the layers of middlemen and transaction costs associated with export agriculture. Time for Reform Right now, the Quixote Center is part of a coalition of NGOs and grassroots networks advocating for food aid reform. We are calling for increased flexibility in the system that will allow for more local purchases of food aid when possible. What we hope for is a system that allows rapid and efficient response to all types of food emergencies. In cases where local production is disrupted, sending food to people in need makes sense. However, this public aid should not be used as a tool to prop up United States farmers to the detriment of farmers in recipient countries. Our coalition advocates for changes such that, when possible, food aid comes by making local purchases for people in need. These purchases are more efficient in that the food does not have to travel from Arkansas, and it is more productive in the long term because it increases the viability of local markets and maintains existing levels of food sovereignty. The United States can do better, but whether or not we improve is dependent on Members of Congress now considering Food Aid Reform as part of the Farm Bill. We have set up a system through which you can contact your Member of Congress and express your support for key issues like food reform, aid accountability, and the ongoing displaced persons crisis in Port-au-Prince. If you would like to get more directly involved in the effort to reform our system of food aid, please contact Andrew Hochhalter for more information.
- Buying food from farmers in-country promotes their own local economies and is a step towards self-sufficient markets. In essence, we will enable them to feed themselves, and they won’t need our food aid in the future.
- Our current process of shipping U.S. food abroad is inefficient. It takes 130 days longer to reach the hungry, and has lost $219 million of our taxpayer money over three years. With the Food Aid Reform, our aid will be both more efficient and reach up to 4 million more people.
…garment factory owners in Haiti routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay, depriving them of any chance to free their families from lives of grueling poverty and frequent hunger. Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages. Despite the presence in Haiti, since 2009, of a factory monitoring program operated by International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and funded by both the U.S. and Canadian governments and major brands and retailers, themselves, the extent of wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years. Earlier this year, this ILO-IFC monitoring program, termed “Better Work Haiti,” reported that every single one of the country’s 24 export garment factories was illegally cheating workers of pay by failing to comply with the country’s legal minimum wage.Read the full report here One of the facilities profiled in the report is the Caracol Industrial Park, which is the flagship project of USAID’s efforts to assist Haiti’s reconstruction post the 2010 earthquake. Caracol, an industrial park built far from where the earthquake did damage, on land seized from farmers, and an almost guaranteed environmental disaster, was handed over to SAE-A, a South Korean company, to manage. SAE-A has horrible record on labor rights. Indeed, the AFL-CIO lobbied the Obama Administration not to grant the management concession to SAE-A because of violations in Guatemala. The Administration ignored them. Stories of wage theft and other abuses emerged almost immediately upon the park opening. In the wake of the report, TransAfrica joined with the Workers Rights Consortium to circulate a letter to major U.S. brands that have clothing sewn in Haiti, encouraging them to take the necessary steps to reign in the subcontractor labor abuse. The Quixote Center signed onto this letter, and we will be taking action with others if the response is inadequate.