Critical Evaluation of the Food Crisis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Essay

Abstract

Liberalization is a concept that has led to degeneration of third world economies and Haiti is no exception. The free market principles favored by liberalization have led to the collapse of major industries in Haiti’s capital, reducing the country to a net importer of basic food commodities. Therefore, the competitive nature of the international business environment exposes the country to unfavorable trade practices that do very little to promote the well being of the citizens in the country. The collapse of local industries have consequently led to high rates of unemployment in the urban cities of Haiti, with the situation being more pronounced in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Many families in the slum areas of Port-au- Prince are poor, unemployed are going on a single meal per day, with some even consuming mud cookies.

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………….4

   Problem Statement………………………………………………………………………………4

   Purpose of the Research…………………………………………………………………………4

   Research Rationale………………………………………………………………………………5

   Research Question………………………………………………………………………………5

   Hypothesis……………………………………………………………………………………….5

   Limitations………………………………………………………………………………………6

Findings and Analysis…………………………………………………………………………….6

Methodology………………………………………………………………………………………7

    Research design…………………………………………………………………………………8

    Data Collection………………………………………………………………………………….8

    Sampling…….………………………………………………………………………………….8

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………9

Recommendations…..…………………………………………………………………………….9

References…..……………………………………………………………………………………11

Introduction

            National food crisis simply refers to a situation where a country fails to adequately meet the levels of food demand by its citizens due to factors such as famine, elongated droughts, destructive flooding, lack of modern farming equipments, high costs of farm inputs and rise in fuel prices (Lendman, 2008). The resultant effects of persistent food shortages in a country lead to uncontrolled rise of food prices to levels where basic food commodities become unaffordable to the majority of the population, especially the poor. The slum areas of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital have been the most hit by the adverse effects of the food crises, with the frequent eruptions of violence in the slums standing out as adequate testimony to the gravity of the matter (Lendman, 2008).

Problem Statement

Haiti has been hit by devastating food crises in the twenty-first century like no other country in Latin America. The catastrophic food crises in both urban and rural parts of Haiti have been occasioned by a series of natural calamities such as droughts and famine as well as man-made problems such as ineffective monetary and fiscal policies, mismanagement of public funds and rampant poverty (Klarreich, 2008). This research paper analyzes the effectiveness of Haiti’s political, economic and social policies with the objective of identifying the inherent weaknesses and recommend appropriate remedies that will help the country avert future food crises.

Purpose of the Research

The main objective of this research paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of the past and current political, social and economic policies Haiti tools for creating equal opportunities for all the citizens in the capital city of the country. The research paper identifies the appropriate strategies through which the poor people in slum areas of Port-au-prince can be protected from the negative impacts of food crises.

Rationale of the Research

The rationale of the research is based on the inherent disconnects between government policies and food crises in Port-au-Prince. The research paper particularly dissects the challenges that face the poor people and low income earners in the Port-au-Prince during food shortages and the subsequent inflations in food prices that culminate to anti-government demonstrations, protests and riots. In essence, the research project is designed on the assumptions that the government can avert the negative impacts of the current and future food crises through the formulation appropriate food crisis management strategies and economic policies that can viably achieve long term and sustainable solutions. Statistical analysis and assessment of the variables bearing direct and indirect influence over the strategic objectives of the research were applied to deduct the functional aspects of economic growth and empowerment as tools for averting future food crises in Haiti.

Research Question

The research is designed to reveal the impacts of food crises on the wellbeing of the poor people and low income earners in Haiti and how to shield them from the adverse consequences of shrinking food supply and uncontrolled inflation in basic commodities prices. This research paper seeks to answer the following question:

What are the root causes and resultant impacts of food crises in Haiti and what roles can the government play to avert the current and future food crises in the country?

The question forms the central theme of the research, with government policies as the independent variable and food crises as the dependent variable of the research.

Hypothesis

Formulation of effective government policies that encourage agricultural development and initiate price controls stand out as appropriate techniques for protecting the poor people and low income earners in Haiti from the adverse impacts of persistent food crises.

Research Limitations

Lack of adequate access to the slum areas of Port-au-prince to interview past and current victims of the food crisis was the main factor that affected the scope of the research.

Analysis and Findings

Haiti is a Latin American that has been hitting the headlines for reasons related to chronic food shortages and frequent food shortages associated with soaring food prices. Haiti remains the poorest country in Latin America and one of the poorest in the world with a meager gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.3 % (CIA World FactBook, 2009). In fact, according to the CIA World FactBook (2009), 80 % of Haiti’s population falls below the poverty line, with 54 % of the population in urban areas living in extreme poverty! The agricultural sector accounts for 28 % of Haiti’s GDP and supports two thirds of the country’s population through subsistence and small scale farming (CIA World FactBook, 2009). However, high rates of forest destructions have increasingly exposed the country to high spates of catastrophic disasters such as droughts and famine, leading to crop failures and consequently, to low levels of food production for both commercial and subsistence purposes. CIA World FactBook (2009) statistics show that Agriculture accounts for 66 % of the country’s 3.6 million labour force in Haiti, meaning that crop failures which result from famine and droughts renders hundreds of thousands of people jobless, meaning that a very big segment of the population is left to the mercies of relief food provided by governmental and non-governmental aid agencies. Inflation rates in Haiti rose by as much as 15.8% in 2008 with the costs of staple foods rising by more than 50 % (Klarreich, 2008). Therefore, hunger has become the norm in Haiti, with the majority of poor families going on one meal per day (Lendman, 2008).

Persistent political wrangles as a result of weak political and democratic structures and institutions in the country have worsened the situation because the country has been locked into constant political tensions (Lendman, 2008). The twenty-first century has seen food crisis in Haiti’s capital hitting the highest levels, consequently halting the running of government activities, schools and businesses. Gauthier (2008) attributes the problem of frequent food shortages in Haiti to irresponsibility on the part of the political leadership in the country who adopted unrealistic structural adjustments programs proposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds (IMF). Indeed, the imposition of rapid liberalization reform programs in the 1990s contributed immensely in destabilizing the fundamental aspects of Haiti’s economy, leading to the collapse of key industries in agricultural sector which were brought down by cheap imports, high petroleum prices and high inflation rates (Gauthier, 2008). Haiti imports more than 50 % of rice, because the local production levels hardly meet 20 % of its requirements for the main staple food, a situation that forces the country to dedicate averagely 30 % of its national budget to importation of basic food commodities, with rice importation alone accounting for about $270 million of the budget (Gauthier, 2008). Chossudovsky (1997) was equally critical of the IMF and World Bank structural adjustment and lending programs which in direct contrast of the designed objectives of balancing national budgets, correcting market imbalances and transforming the economy to more competitiveness, serve to impoverish the working class and plunging countries to further fiscal crises and poverty.

Methodology

The research methodology involved qualitative and qualitative research design that was followed by data collection and sampling.

Research Design

Group focus study was conducted on four categories of low income earners and unemployed people living in the slum areas of Port-au-Prince. The four categories comprised of a minimum of 35 participants of either sex per group, making a total minimum of 140 participants for all the four target groups. The core subject of the research paper was validated by redefining the importance of the functional aspects of food crisis prevention strategies. References were made from diverse information databases that included books, journal publications and websites in addition to the appraisal of indispensable sources of data.

Data Collection

Data was collected through qualitative instrumentation that included open-ended questionnaires and person to person interviews designed to achieve enhanced quality reprisal. The interviews were aimed at evaluating the conceptualization of interviewees concerning persistent food crises in Haiti and how the government, local and international organizations can positively contribute in shielding the poor and low income earners from the negative impacts of food crises. The direct data collection approach was supplemented by the Delphi survey technique particularly applied to access and weigh opinions from experts.

Sampling

Query clusters were constructed to determine the likely future events and the frequency of their occurrences with response from near term, future, to never. The samples consisted of 140 participants representing four different pools of samples of male and female participants aged between 18 and 70 years old. Interviews were centered on the views of low income earners, poor families living in slum areas of Port-au-Prince and knowledgeable experts who work for different governmental and non-governmental organizations in Haiti.

Conclusion

The food crisis in Port-au-Prince in Haiti is a challenge that poses challenges of magnanimous nature in Haiti because the mere fact that the crisis is an outcome of deliberate structural weaknesses rather than circumstantial occurrences (Gauthier, 2008) makes it difficult for the country’s leadership to achieve immediate solutions to the problems. The alarming increase in food prices in the capital city is just but a manifestation of deeper and complicated effects of the globolised economy. Gauthier (2008) stated that gravity of the food crisis in Haiti was compounded by the globolised nature of the economy whereby price mechanisms are dictated by the prevailing trends in the world markets. Unfortunately, Haiti the effects of the global economic phenomena do not favor Haiti at all because the country’s reliance on the global market is almost proportional to its level of national production. Therefore, it is very important for the government to review its fiscal and economic policies because the country cannot improve the living standards in the capital city of Port-au-Prince without improving the economic situation in the entire country. Farmers in the rural areas need to be facilitated to produce adequate food to be consumed in the urban cities at affordable prices.

Recommendations

This research report makes two-pronged solutions that the Haiti government should adopt to avert the frequent food shortages in Port-au0prince and the rest of the country: short-term measures and long term measures. The Haiti government should, as a matter of urgency, suspend the unrealistic liberalization programs and introduce short term measures such as price controls to curb upward movements of commodity process in the market to avert the effects of high food prices in urban areas, including Port-au-Prince. As for the long term measures, the Haiti government should adopt reforestation strategies and completely ban the cutting down of trees and enhance the protection the natural resources (Gauthier, 2008).. The country should further pursue trade agreements that promote the development of agriculture and local industries because the country’s current balance of payments only favor economic powerhouses such as the United States, Japan, Canada and Mexico which are the leading exporters of rice to Haiti (Gauthier, 2008). The research also recommends that the President of Haiti should direct the government to subsidize farming activities in rural areas to enable small scale and subsistence farmers afford farm inputs such as fertilizers, as a long term measure. Other long term measures should involve prioritization the initiation of infrastructure development projects such as construction of roads and dams. The construction of dams will facilitate irrigation programs through the construction of dams while roads will facilitate the transport of farm produce to destination markets in urban cities and international markets, in addition to creating employment opportunities. The government, with consultation with non-governmental organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations (UN) should empower farmers through civic education on new farming methods and diversification into alternative sectors of farming production such as rearing of animals and birds. Small scale and subsistence farmers can also be empowers through enhanced access to micro-credit opportunities, whereby the government funds the agricultural activities of small scale farmers by facilitating loans to farmers at subsidized rates. The empowerment strategies will enable the government to gradually make an exit by transforming loans into self-sufficient revolving funds whereby the interests earned from repayments are pushed back into the fund and lend to new and existing applicants once again.

References

Chossudovsky, M. (1997). The globalization of poverty: Impacts of IMF and World

      Bank reforms. New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.

Food Crises Worsening in Haiti – more than 3.8 million hungry people. (2003). FAO, Accessed

        on 15 May 2009 from: <http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/news/2003/21165-en.html>.

Gauthier, A. (2008). The food crisis in Haiti: A ruptured process? Peace and Security

      Programme, FRIDE, pp 1-6, Accessed on 15 May 2009 from:

       <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1729150,00.html>.

Haiti (2009). CIA World FactBook, Accessed on 15 May 2009 from:

         <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html>.

Klarreich, K. (2008). Food crisis renews Haiti’s agony. TIME, 9 April, 2008.

Lendman, S. (2008). Global food crisis: Hunger plagues Haiti and the world. Global Research,

          Accessed on 15 May 2009 from:

          <http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8712>.