Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haitian Women Play a Central Role in Haitian Agriculture/Support Haitian Peasant-Led Projects, Support the Lambi Fund

By special guest blogger: Ezili Danto

Haitian women play a central role in Haitian agriculture

For more info, go to - The Lambi Fund supports projects run by women. The Lambi Fund supports Haiti peasant-led agricultural projects. (Overview of Lambi Fund Programs.).
30 years ago, Haiti grew all the rice it needed. Recently, former President Clinton apologized for forcing corporate agribusiness subsidies on defenseless Haiti during his term in office. This destroyed Haiti's rice production and forced Haiti to now import more than 80% of its food, leading to Clorox hunger, starvation, despair and death, not to mention overcrowding in Port au Prince when peasants where forced off their land in search for sweatshop jobs in the capital. Yet, today, under the rubric of "Haiti Relief", USAID is pushing corporate seeds on Haiti. This new twist to agricultural dependency will not help Haiti. Monsanto, through USAID's WINNER program has tied itself to the money pool for corporate fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides required to plant its corporate seeds. This is not a gift but a large biotech company entering the false benevolence game of USAID in the name of 300,000 dead earthquake victims. Corporate seeds are not sustainable development for Haitian women in Haiti. Solidarity with Haiti would mean USAID would stop using raised funds to purchase foreign subsidized rice, dump it into Haiti destroying Haiti's agriculture; would stop using donation and tax-payer dollars to purchase big agribusiness products while denying Haiti's domestic food sovereignty. The money US tax payers are footing to help Haiti should be helping Haiti, not Monsanto, USAID "experts" salaries, shipping companies and such others. The only sustainable solution is to assist in supporting Haiti's national food production, consumption and local distribution. (See, Ezili/HLLN links at Rich countries use trade deals to seize food from the world's hungriest people and Economic proposals that make sense for the reality of Haiti - The Western economic model doesn't fit an independent Black nation.)
"What would it take to transform Haiti's economy such that its role in the global economy is no longer that of providing cheap labor for sweatshops? What would it take for hunger to no longer be the norm, for the country no longer to depend on imports and hand-outs, and for Port-au-Prince's slums to no longer contain 85% of the city's residents? What would it take for the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the earthquake to have a secure life, with income?
According to Haitian peasant organizations, at the core of the solutions is a commitment on the part of the government to support family agriculture, with policies to make the commitment a reality.
Haiti is the only country in the hemisphere where the majority is still rural. Estimates of the percentage of Haiti's citizens who remain farmers span from 60.5% (UN, 2006) to 80% (the figure used by peasant groups)." (For complete article, go to: Agriculture and Haiti's Long-Term Future: An Analysis by Beverly Bell)
* "The Lambi Fund - Sowing the seeds of independence
Rural Haitians are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty...Many Haitian peasants are forced into unfair sharecropping agreements with wealthy landowners because they lack the capital and resources to start out on their own.
Seeding grassroots change
Lambi Fund of Haiti is donating high-quality seeds to two women's peasant organizations to help them build seed banks for their farming communities. This is a gift that keeps on giving...
Empowering rural communities, overcoming discrimination
Paired with this project, Lambi Fund will hold a series of regional trainings to further empower rural communities to overcome discrimination, to fight for their rights and use their skills to change discriminatory government policies.
Hunger fast facts:
  • In the past five years, Lambi Fund has supported 100 peasant-led projects that trained over 12,500 people in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, reforestation and leadership skills.
  • Lambi Fund's activities have impacted over 150,000 community members, many during the hurricanes in fall 2008.
Voices of Change: While I am a bit nervous about the country's current economic condition, I am extremely thankful that, unlike my counterparts in neighboring villages, I no longer feel hopeless and dependent on
others. Life is still hard for me, but I am hopeful… I have my own business and my children will not starve. —Fifine Jean Louis, recipient of a Lambi Fund micro-loan"
This project has taught us how to protect our fields and the surrounding mountains so that we have more crops, cleaner water and less erosion. Through Lambi, we have the power to make better lives for ourselves. —Farmer" (Source: Fighting Hunger From the Ground Up by American Jewish World Service)
How to Start Helping Haiti- WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. One way to help food sovereignty in Haiti and sustainable agriculture is to support the Lambi Fund's work. Go to: How You Can Help 2. Take Action: Stop intro corporate seeds to Haiti 3. Tell Congress: Fund Local Food for Haiti 4. Knowledge is power. Understand why sweatshops don't work and why Haiti's workers - rural and urban- need your solidarity: Poverty-Wage Assembly Plants as Development Strategy in Haiti and Rebuilding Haiti - the Sweatshop Hoax (Betrayal of Haiti's majority by Liberal Democrats); Ezili/HLLN links at Rich countries use trade deals to seize food from the world's hungry... ; Economic proposals that make sense for the reality of Haiti - The Western economic model doesn't fit an independent Black nation, 2007 by HLLN.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Haitian Flag Day!

Today is a very important day in Haiti because over 200 years ago, on May 18th 1803, the Haitian flag was created in Arcahaie (just outside of Port-au-Prince). Since then, May 18th has been celebrated as Haitian Flag Day. The flag is an important symbol of Haitian freedom, national pride, and individual liberty.

Today as we look back on the proud history of Haiti, the first and only republic to hold a successful slave rebellion, the Lambi Fund of Haiti looks forward to a promising and united future as Haiti rebuilds.

In honor of democracy and continued social empowerment, help celebrate Haiti's proud past by helping rebuild for tomorrow.

With just,

...$25 you can start a tool bank, allowing farmers to use improved tools to cultivate the land and increase productivity,

...$50 you can buy seeds for a seed bank and provide sustainable agriculture training to a community,

...$100 you can purchase a goat and training so that community groups improve their livelihoods with a successful enterprise,

...and $500 you can support women's programs by replenishing community microcredit funds and providing valuable leadership and technical training.

These are the type of resources Haitian community organizations want and need. Strengthening these rural communities' capacities will ensure successful recovery in Haiti. With the past support of donors like you, we have proudly supported democracy in Haiti for over 16 years. Lambi Fund has partnered with community groups on more than 175 projects and touched almost two million lives.

Help continue the legacy and donate today.

In honor of Haiti,

Karen Ashmore
Executive Director,
The Lambi Fund of Haiti

P.S. Thank-you for your generosity.
Visit www.lambifund.org for more information.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Progress Amid the Chaos: Lambi Fund Responds to the Earthquake Disaster in Haiti

By: Sarah Leavitt

On January 12 the ground shook. It trembled like never before. In just a few horrifying moments, a massive earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and major provincial cities like Jacmel, Léogâne, and Petit-Goâve.
The world watched in horror as the toll on human life unfolded. Never before, declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has a natural disaster been so devastating.
The Presidential Palace crumbled, UN headquarters were destroyed, building after building collapsed like pancakes.
Unbelievably, 250,000 residences were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable.
The horrible stench of death lurked in the city for weeks afterwards. Over 200,000 people were killed. More than 150,000 individuals injured and left to live life as amputees. In the blink of an eye, nearly 2 million Haitians were rendered homeless.
Destruction photo
Photo: Roberto (Bear) Guerra
Responding to such a catastrophe has not been easy. Through the rubble, roads were impossible to navigate and trying to coordinate the influx of international donor agencies was declared a logistical nightmare.
Earthquake survivors left with no homes, no food, and no jobs quickly realized that aid distribution would be slow and unreliable.
Thus over 500,000 affected residents caught the first bus they could find to live with family members and friends in the rural provinces of Haiti.
This massive migration of internally displaced persons has wreaked havoc on already impoverished rural communities, where the average person still survives on less than $2 a day. Some rural populations (so much as) doubled overnight.
Keeping with the Haitian tradition of peasant solidarity, rural communities have been quick to take in quake survivors and have shared with them everything they have. The 80-year-old mother of the field monitor for Fon Lanbi Pou Ayiti has taken in 39 people in her small house.
Hand photo
Christianne Adrien, a street vendor, and her husband Ilson, a farmer, took in 18 members of her extended family. "If it were for the money, we would never have done it."
After the earthquake, more than a half million people fled Port au Prince and relocated to rural areas.
They, along with thousands of peasants throughout Haiti have spent what little they have on clean water, medical supplies, clothing, bags of rice, and cans of beans for their new neighbors. Peasants have slaughtered precious cows to bring meat to patients at local hospitals.
Christianne continues, "We did this because we wanted them to have a life. If God saved the life of some people from a catastrophe of that size, it's so that we can protect the life of others. People have to live; you have to receive them."
Clearly, the earthquake has touched each and every Lambi Fund of Haiti staff member who along with their fellow citizens sustained damages and suffered personal losses. In spite of these hardships, Lambi Fund staff members sprang into action to help address the urgent needs of 43 rural communities impacted greatly by the massive exodus out of the capital.
In collaboration with our grassroots partners, Lambi Fund convened regional assemblies of local peasants to define immediate needs and prioritize rebuilding efforts.
In the first phase, Lambi Fund focused on the delivery of food and other essentials to rural communities to meet the immediate needs of earthquake survivors who had resettled to these communities.
With the help of regional committees and other partners, the Lambi Fund was able to distribute the following:
  • Done (wired $712k)
  • Grants to 22 grassroots groups in Artibonite, which has received over 162,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Port au Prince - to buy clothes, food, meds, and other essentials and infuse the local economy
  • Cash disbursements to cover losses of Fon Lanbi Pou Ayiti staff members in Port au Prince
  • Grants to two grassroots women's groups in Port au Prince who lost everything in the quake - to buy clothes, food, meds, and other essentials and infuse the local economy
  • Grants to four grassroots groups in the Northwest, which has received over 45,000 IDPs - to buy clothes, food, meds, and other essentials and infuse the local economy
  • Grants to 17 grassroots groups in the South, which has received over 25,000 IDPs - to buy clothes, food, meds, and other essentials and infuse the local economy
  • Distributed medications (value $8K, donated by UUSC) to hospital in Gwomon
  • Distributed tents and basic supplies to 17 grassroots groups in South (donated by Hope for Haiti)
  • Grants to 42 peasant organizations for Farmers Credit Funds so that 1,260 farmers in the Artibonite, South, West and Northwest departments can plant increased crops to feed themselves and IDPs with locally grown food.
Next steps in rebuilding Haiti include focusing on sustaining and strengthening development in rural areas including:
  • Mid and long term ($1M)
  • Increase micro-enterprises with additional community microcredit funds
  • Increase organic, locally-grown food and clean water with expanded sustainable agriculture, reforestation and water access projects
  • Increase livelihoods with expanded sustainable development projects, such as pig and goat breeding, grain mills and sugar cane mills
  • Build 880 latrines to prevent spread of disease and increase sanitation in rural areas, as a result of rapidly growing population from IDPs
  • Distribute 100 wheelchairs to the large number of amputees whose limbs were crushed in the earthquake.
  • Expand women's programs to address the special needs of women (who are more vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault in tent cities but several organized women's groups are standing up for the rights of women and children)

Advocacy Efforts

Supporting Policy Advocacy to express the voice of the Haitian people in rebuilding Haiti will be an important component of long-term rebuilding plans. Lambi Fund is committed to taking a leadership role in advocacy by speaking out on behalf of rural communities, by creating strong partnerships with a coalition of like-minded groups working together to rebuild Haiti, and by supporting the needs of women, particularly within the context of the rebuilding effort now underway. As foreign corporations and governments jockey for rebuilding contracts, the Haitian voice has been neglected.

Photo: Roberto (Bear) Guerra
This cannot continue; the voice of the majority must be heard.
In order to incorporate Haitians and their perspectives, Lambi Fund has developed a five point plan for prioritizing rebuilding in Haiti:
  1. National sovereignty. The ownership of rebuilding Haiti must come from the Haitian people. Real change must come from the majority poor. Not from politicians. Not from the elite. And not from foreign governments. Haitians must be the change agents through participatory democracy.
  2. Decentralization. The migration of over 500,000 earthquake survivors from the rubble of Port-au-Prince to rural Haiti offers the opportunity to create a decentralized infrastructure that can lead to regional centers for economic development, better roads, public education, health care, social services and access to potable water and sanitation.
  3. Stimulate local economy. The earthquake offers a unique opportunity for the international community to work in partnership with Haitian peasant groups to increase our capacity to feed the country and support the local economy.
  4. Rebuild Haiti right. In addition to true land reform, Port au Prince and other damaged towns must be rebuilt with disaster resistant building codes that are rigorously monitored. Rebuilding must be done by Haitians, who are desperately in need of a boost in fair and equitable employment opportunities.
  5. Environment must be at the center of restoring Haiti. Deforestation represents one of the greatest threats to Haiti's food security. Restoration of the environment is crucial to sustaining a functioning economy and productive agricultural sector, providing sufficient employment, and recreating natural buffers against inevitable environmental challenges, which include climate change.
Lambi Fund recognizes the critical role that will be played by women and farmers in the rebuilding of Haiti, and will continue to advocate for their inclusion in the creation of a plan and a new vision for Haiti.
Read the Lambi Fund of Haiti's Spring 2010 Newsletter in its entirety.