Posted on 02/12/2010 at 05:17:17 PM by Student BloggerBy: Rebecca K.
In 1804, a successful slave rebellion led Haiti to becoming the first independent Latin American nation. An earthquake, no matter how strong, will not destroy this history.
It also will not destroy Haiti's history of non-democratic political rule; from colonial French rule to the U.S. occupation between 1915 to 1934 to the Duvalier family dictatorship (1957-1986) to the dual coup de etat of the first democratically elected President Aristide (1991; 2004).
Rice and beans are long-standing traditional staples in the Haitian diet.
In this time of great suffering and [public] health needs the Haitian people need food.
The level of malnourishment, particularly among infants and children, was already high before the earthquake; but what about now?
Amidst the seemingly peaceful chaos, do the Haitians dream about rice?
The native Haitian, whole-grain and Vitamin-B rich, rice was cultivated and consumed in Haiti for over 200 years.
In the 1980s, needing money, Haiti took loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank; but it required that Haiti open its grain market to global competition. In 1994, President Clinton helped Aristide return to power. However, a condition of his assistance was Aristide's reduction of tariffs on rice imports from 35 to three percent. Consequently, the U.S. has sent millions of subsidized rice to Haiti; and as of 2008 it was third largest world market for U.S. rice. As domestic rice production—that involved 20% of the population—was displaced by U.S. imports, it was replaced with mere rice dreams. Rice dreams Haitians carried with them to the cities looking for new work (e.g. in sweatshops that produce goods for Disney).
In the early 2000s, prisoners (many repressed Aristide supporters) in the overcrowded Haitian National Prison started dying. But from what—prison riots? Nope. Beri-beri. A multivitamin would have prevented death; but untreated, Beri-beri eventually causes congestive heart failure, among other significant health problems. As Haitians always scrub their rice prior to cooking, the prisoners had been fed U.S. processed-rice that had lost its “enriched” features and consequently lacked the B-1/thamine removed during U.S. processing techniques.
In 2008, as the global food crisis hit and the price of rice skyrocketed, Haiti erupted in rice riots. Mud cakes, not rice, became the staple in the diet. And now, this. The earthquake. The rice dreams do not go away; nor do the myriad public health problems. But what can we do. Ultimately, food aid will need to stop; particularly U.S. aid that under U.S. law requires that food aid not only be purchased from U.S. farms, but also processed and packaged in the U.S. and transported on U.S. ships.
Haitians need to be given another sound chance to pursue their rice dreams, let alone other self-sufficient agricultural production. One way to do so is by developing sound permaculture in Haiti. Permaculture Haiti was started to do just that.With a renewed agricultural footing, Haiti will need agricultural market protections and trade restrictions.
One day, Haitian rice dreams will be more than old memories or ambitions but a tangible feeling that comes along with eating a fork full of succulent Riz Djon-Djon.