Washington, D.C. – CWS joined Haitian grassroots leaders and other civil society organizations in urging Congress and the international aid community to expand the role Haitians take in development efforts, including significant investment in sustainable solutions.
“We do not need food assistance, we need food security,” CWS Haiti program officer Rony Janvier said as part of a special panel discussion on Haiti’s future. “We need agriculture investment to re-start Haiti.” With over half the Haitian population food insecure, smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
For example, Janvier said when the usual March rains come in May, farmers need investment and training in climate mitigation and sustainable agricultural techniques to help them adjust.
Haiti for Whom? Aid Accountability and Inequality Five Years After featured a panel discussion of Haitian grassroots and development organizations, sponsored by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group.
HAWG, of which CWS is a core member, is a working group of international development, faith-based, human rights and social justice organizations that advocate on issues related to U.S.-Haiti policy. HAWG assembled diverse voices for the panels, but their voices were consistent in calling for accountability, transparency, collaboration and results five years following the country’s earthquake catastrophe and the international, billion-dollar relief and rebuilding effort that followed.
“We cannot fight food insecurity and hunger in Haiti until we invest in agriculture,” said Fortune Cher Frere, of CWS local partner in Haiti, the Christian Center for Integrated Development, (known as SKDE in Creole).
CWS-supported cooperatives in the country’s northwest are Haitian-organized and led spaces where communities come together to share and sustain farming and to learn sustainable agricultural practices. Janvier was once a member of a CWS-sponsored co-op.
“When I became a member of my cooperative, my life changed. I could buy a goat. I could send my children to school,” said Janvier.
Janvier is now leading the charge and helping others in his community and beyond. When villages manage their own cooperatives, better growing techniques and access to credit and land can mean new crops that bring better nutrition for families as well as income for the future.
Empowering Haitian women is a critical piece of the puzzle. Marie Ange Noel, an activist and grassroots mobilizer, spoke about the role women in Haiti must have in their country’s future. “Women need to meet their needs for nutrition and food security so they can have a healthy and active life with their children. Hunger is keeping our children from being able to learn. You can’t learn when you are hungry in class.”
Nixon Boumba of American Jewish World Service summed up the day perhaps the best: “If social justice and economic solidarity prevail, the Haitian people will take ownership of our own future.”