Saturday, November 22, 2008
UN Haiti appeal: British agencies call for more support for Haitian farmers -British Haiti Advocacy Platform
For immediate release. 21 November 2008
A platform of British development agencies and solidarity organizations has today written to the United Nations to express its concern about the poor international response to the joint UN/Government of Haiti Flash Appeal to help Haiti recover from the devastating series of hurricanes that hit the country in August and September.
In a letter to John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, the British Haiti Advocacy Platform notes that, as of 21 November 2008, only 33% of the total appeal amount of US$108m had been raised. (The Flash Appeal was launched on 9 September.)
More worrying still for the Platform is the very poor response to the part of the Flash Appeal concerning the rehabilitation of Haiti's vital agricultural sector. Around two-thirds of the Haitian population derives its livelihood from agriculture.
As part of the total requested by the UN and Haiti's government, an allocation of US $10.5m was requested by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to:
- help rebuild the livelihoods of the farmers most affected by natural disasters,
- rehabilitate the irrigation network in the main areas affected by flooding, and
- help prevent the spread of disease among surviving livestock.
In the letter to the UN's John Holmes, the Platform deplores the fact that, so far, only US$828,000 - just 8% of the amount originally requested for agriculture - has been provided.
The letter states: "If Haiti is to avoid the prospect of wide spread famine in the near future, there needs to be a major effort to support Haitian farmers so that they can grow the crops and rear the animals to provide food for the population."
It continues: "The fact that the response to the agriculture section of the Flash Appeal has been so disappointing suggests that once again that the international aid machine remains wedded to the short-term and has scant regard for lasting solutions to Haiti's problems.
"The Platform appealed to John Holmes to raise the issue of international donor support for Haitian farmers as a matter of the highest priority.
Anne McConnell, co-ordinator of the British Haiti Advocacy Platform, said,"While it is great that the Flash Appeal recognized the importance of repairing the damage to the agricultural sector, these good intentions are rendered meaningless if the rich donor nations decline to support this part of the Appeal."
The Haiti Support Group solidarity organization is a member of the Platform, and its director, Charles Arthur, added, "Six or nine months from now, when the images of starving Haitian children are broadcast on North American and European television, people will ask how the situation in Haiti was allowed toget so bad. If Haitian farmers don't get help, we are looking at the strong possibility of a terrible famine."
Decades of under-investment and the reduction of import tariffs have left Haiti's agricultural sector in a dire state. As a result, Haiti has moved from a situation where local farmers could provide most of the country's food requirements to the the current position of reliance of food imports. Recent increases in international food prices have pushed the cost of many everyday food staples out of the reach of country's poor.
This precarious situation has been compounded by the damage caused by the recent series of hurricanes and floods which destroyed crops, washed away fields and livestock, and obliterated the rudimentary irrigation network.
Haiti's peasant farmers - tens of thousands of them united in regional and national peasant organizations - are now trying to rebuild and rehabilitate the agricultural sector.