41 U.S. Democrats request that USAID expand food supplies to Haiti. How does this affect Haiti?
In recent news, we’ve learned that a group of 41 U.S. House Democrats have called and urged the Biden administration to increase the number of food supplies and aid sent to Haiti. This recent urging of Biden’s administration comes in the face of the fact that almost fifty percent of Haiti’s population consistently suffers from starvation and food insecurity.
How will this truly affect Haiti with its past relationships with other administrations and nonprofit organizations wanting to expand the number of food supplies sent to the country?
Let’s talk about it.
41 Democrats and USAID
A letter was sent recently to Administrator Samantha Power of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The 41 Democrats that composed this letter wrote saying they “believe there is an urgent need for our government to act regarding food aid arriving in Haiti and U.S. food assistance policy more broadly.”
It is well known that, on average, over 4 million Haitians live in constant fear of starvation, which is just under half of the entire population.
The members who wrote this letter to USAID also spoke on the domestic and foreign aspects that have resulted in the country of Haiti suffering from hunger. Democrats say that this current issue of starvation is due to not only the domestic issues occurring within Haiti and the lack of nonprofit organizational help that is sitting at unexpectedly low numbers, the Democrats also add that previous U.S. policies have also added to the problem of starvation and they have a moral obligation to answer it.
Previous U.S. Policies and Administration’s Impact on Haiti
The U.S. has a long-standing humanitarian relationship with the people of Haiti, but not necessarily in a good way, unfortunately. For example, there is a bit of distrust after what occurred between Haiti and the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration.
After the destruction of an earthquake Haiti sustained in 2010, the Bush Administration sought to show their help and support to the Haitian people. However, the food supplies that the administration had sent over had either been already expired food that had lost its nutritional value and was food that was not suitable or common in the average Haitian diet.
Going further back than the Bush administration is what occurred with the Clinton Administration. The former president back apologized publicly in 2010 for the damage done to the Haitian people and their natural food supply of rice; however, by the time he had apologized, the damage was already done, and the people of Haiti were feeling the repercussions of the decisions of the Clinton Administration. The decision to drop tariffs on imported subsidized U.S. rice while Clinton was in office had disastrous effects on the local rice farming in Haiti, nearly ruining their ability to be a self-sustaining country.
While it may have benefited some farmers living in the state of Arkansas, it had disastrous effects on the locals of Haiti.
So, it’s easy to see that Haiti could be a bit hesitant and cautious toward this recent news of the 41 Democrats pushing USAID to expand food supplies to Haiti based on these historic aid dealings that turned sour.
What Could This Mean for Haiti’s Agriculture Sector and its Farmers?
Small Haitian farmers and rice can be seen as the country’s lifeblood as far back as the 1800s when they declared their independence. Rice is one of Haiti’s most basic food staples, and the small farmers devote their lives to growing and harvesting rice for themselves, their families, and their communities.
While the Clinton Administration and other previous administrations held good and wholesome intentions by increasing the level of food supplies sent to Haiti or lowering and dropping tariffs on food, these decisions ultimately did more harm than good.
In the past, whenever the United States decided to get more involved by increasing food supplies for the humanitarian aid of Haiti, in the end, this caused Haiti’s domestic food production levels to plummet to dangerously low levels, which resulted in the country becoming heavily dependent on foreign food aid.
“Food aid benefits the big American companies who grow and transport it but wrecks local economies. As cheap American food undersold Haitian farmers’ produce, domestic agriculture became even less sustainable. In effect, food aid created a dependence on foreign imports.”
While these 41 Democrats may have had good intentions in writing their letter to USAID urging more food supplies be sent to Haiti, it is possible that these humanitarian acts could end with economically harmful results for the locals of Haiti, potentially leading to another period of extreme foreign dependence.
All of this, though, is not to say that Haiti does not require any outside help whatsoever and that they should be left alone to fend for themselves completely. This is where inclusive nonprofit organizations come into play.
Nonprofits can still help Haiti and its people with their struggle against starvation without impacting local food production levels, and import tariffs like previous U.S. Administrations have done.
Anyone interested in helping the people of Haiti fight against hunger can easily get involved with known nonprofit organizations through financial donations to be used to purchase fresh food supplies, pay for the transport of food, and support those that are actively working in Haiti to distribute food and rebuild communities.
The letter these 41 Democrats wrote to USAID could be good if it does result in more aid and food supplies being sent to Haiti. However, it’s important to take into account the political and economic factors at play on the local level as well.
While it might provide relief now, foreign governmental help could result in negative effects later on, as it has done in the past. Overall, investing in local small farmer nonprofits/associations might be the better option for providing aid to Haiti without causing disastrous impacts on local Haiti food production, import tariffs, etc.