“test” food voucher program in the Grande Anse département
(province) on Haiti’s southern peninsula promoted
consumption of imported rather than local food for almost 18,000
families, despite claims to the contrary.
addition, the program – run by CARE with funding from the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID) and supposedly
meant for victims of the Hurricane Tomas who had lost their
crops – did not begin until 11 months after the storm hit on
November 5, 2010.
program launched in October 2011, when food security was
improving. The “Food Security Outlook” report for that period –
July-December 2011 – noted that parts of Grande Anse were
“stressed,” but went on to say that “with the promise of more or
less satisfactory harvests in Grand’ Anse [sic], the upper
Artibonite, and the Southeast, food security conditions in these
areas are expected to improve between October and December.” The
report is one put out every three months the Famine Early
Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), a U.S. government-run office
that predicts hunger and famine in conjunction with the Haitian
government and USAID.
Despite the improved forecast, CARE launched “Tikè Manje”
(“Food Voucher”) program, which later changed its name to “Kore
Lavni Nou” (“Supporting Your Future”). Funded by USAID, it
also had the endorsement of the government’s “Aba Grangou”
(“Down with Hunger”) leadership. After a timid beginning in
October 2011, the program got into full swing in the spring of
2012 – 16 months after Hurricane Tomas – a year-long
Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) investigation determined.
asked the head of the government's Aba Grangou program
why CARE’s program was allowed to start so late.
“The project was meant to
help people affected by Hurricane Tomas,” Director Jean Robert
Brutus admitted. “By the time the project started, Grande Anse
had probably already started to recuperate. But since it had
already been set up, the U.S. government decided to implement
CARE was asked why Grande Anse was selected, rather than other
areas of the country – notably the Northwest, which habitually
suffers from extreme hunger – the program’s coordinator, Tamara
Shukakidze, said that CARE and another USAID contractor chose
Grande Anse to carry out “a test” after the hurricane caused
damage. In interviews with HGW, Brutus also used the word
program “is simply a test in certain regions to see if we can
implement the program everywhere in the country,” explained
Shukakidze in a March 2013 interview, while the program was
still ongoing. At the time, CARE was hoping to be a contractor
for a future USAID-funded US$20 million “social security net”
program that will include food vouchers, CARE spokesman Pierre
Seneq told HGW.
imported food, government gets a 10% cut
families were chosen by CARE and community leaders for the
Kore Lavni Nou program, reportedly according to the
following criteria: families with no or little land, with two or
less animals, and/or with a child head-of-household or family
members who were disabled, extremely elderly, HIV positive, or
had other challenges.
beneficiary received a monthly voucher worth 2,000 gourdes
(about $US46.51) that could be redeemed at specific merchants
for specific quantities of rice, vegetable oil, beans, imported
dried herring, corn meal, pasta, and bouillon cubes. HGW
research in several Grande Anse communes revealed that almost
all the products came from U.S. producers. (HGW was not able to
visit every single Kore Lavni Nou store.)
law stipulates that almost all U.S. food aid must be U.S. grown
and processed food.
many other food voucher and cash transfer programs in the
country, CARE signed a contract with the mobile telephone
company Digicel to assure the cash transfers. In addition to
paying Digicel for those services, the CARE program – and all
others – have to pay the Haitian government 10% on all “mobile
money transactions, including transfer to beneficiaries, vendor
payment, and cash out,” according to a 2013 USAID report.
Hurricane Sandy caused damage to some Grande Anse farms in
October 2012, CARE extended the program with a “Phase 2,” adding
5,708 people to the roll, meaning that a total of 17,708
beneficiaries in Grande Anse received food coupons up through
the end of August 2013, according to CARE spokesman Seneq.
(Another 8,000 families in the Artibonite and Northwest
provinces were also added to the rolls for the period April
2013-end of October 2013.)
total of over US$5 million will be directly distributed to
families facing food insecurity,” Seneq explained in a Jun. 18,
According to the USAID 2013 BEST report, CARE received US$7.4
million for the Grande Anse program.
criticized by farmers, agronomists, others
coordinator of Rezo Pwodiktè ak Pwodiktris Agrikòl Dam Mari
(ROPADAM – Network of Dame Marie Agricultural Producers), told
HGW that the food voucher program represents “a terrible threat”
to Grande Anse farmers.
ROPADAM was one of seven organizations that signed a four-page
document denouncing the program in July 2012. The organizations
said they were shocked that their communities had been targeted
since, according to Haitian government documents, “not one of
the communes is classified as having ‘extreme hunger.’”
everyone knows, Grande Anse is a breadbasket for vegetables and
fruit,” the organizations noted in their press release. “And we
see that this food aid program is taking place during our
harvest months, when a lot of vegetables and fruits go to
shocking to Dadignac and the organizations was the almost
exclusive promotion of foreign food.
every little store we visit, even ones that used to sell cement
or tin sheeting, we see a sign: ‘USAID,’” Dadignac told HGW in
September 2012. “In their radio advertising, they say they are
giving people plantains and breadfruit, but that’s not what we
see. We see rice, spaghetti, oil, while our products are left
thought other departments would be coming to get our products to
take care of the hunger problem," Dadignac added. "We didn’t
think we’d end up seeing all this imported food here!”
CARE press release from 2012 claims that the “program supports
consumption of locally produced, traditionally appropriate,
products which are readily available in all communities.”
However, visits by HGW journalists to stores in two communes
during Phase 1 and two communes during Phase 2 did not find any
“locally produced” food aside from Haitian spaghetti, made with
imported wheat, and – in some, but not all locations – beans.
if CARE used or was planning to use local food, spokesman Pierre
Seneq confirmed that mostly imported food was utilized in the
current programs, but that CARE was planning to source some
local food in future programs.
Robert Brutus, head of Aba Grangou, also admitted that
the Grande Anse programs mostly used foreign food.
“Everyone wanted [the program] to use local food, but the market
could not always provide it,” Brutus told HGW. He also said that
people cannot be forced to buy one thing over another.
don’t force people who have vouchers to buy local products, but
we encourage them, and we encourage the distributors to make
local products available,” Brutus said. “We need to make an
effort to guarantee producers that their products will be
competitive with imported products and will be purchased, so
that they start to produce again.”
Brutus did not give details on how Haitian rice and other local
products would be able to compete with the highly subsidized
and/or cheaply produced foreign food.
the meantime, the agronomists in Grande Anse are as despondent
as Dadignac and other farmers. “It’s true, there are places in
Grande Anse where people are hungry,” agronomist Vériel Auguste
Veriél is a member of a farmers cooperative. Like every farmer
and agronomist contacted by HGW, he bemoaned the use of foreign
food to help hungry people, since it undercuts local production,
makes people dependent, and, in the long run, contributes to
even more hunger.
call the program ‘Down with Hunger,’ but to me, it’s a ‘Long
Live Hunger’ program,” he said.
Auguste also pointed out that the province has a lot of
cultivable land sitting empty, in part because cheap imported
food undercuts Haitian production, and in part because Haitian
farmers get no technical support from the government.
long time ago, every week we would see four boats loaded with
food leave [Jérémie] every week, and there would still be food
left on the wharf!” he said. “Not any longer… but the land is
there. It can still be farmed.”
Agronomist Jean Wilda Fanor, who has worked in Grande Anse for
over 25 years, said much the same thing.
“Instead of an Aba Grangou program that promotes imported
food, the government should help develop the internal market so
producers can sell their products,” said Fanor, who currently
works for Entraide Protestante Suisse (Swiss Protestant
Questioned by HGW in June 2013, the head of the government’s
Coordination Nationale de Securité Alimentaire agency (CNSA
or National Coordination for Food Security) also expressed
reserves about voucher programs that favor U.S. food.
objective is to allow people to buy local food,” CNSA director
Pierre Gary Mathieu said. “If it is poorly targeted and people
buy imported rather than local food, then it penalizes local
Mathieu said he was aware of the “deviation” in Grande Anse,
which was a “very bad” experience, but added that thought it had
been corrected. However, as noted above, Phase 1 and 2 of CARE’s
program were identical.
and Vendors Happy
But the program
does have its cheerleaders. In publicity materials, CARE lauds
its program, which undoubtedly did feed families. And of course,
store owners were very pleased.
Silvain Julien said his store became part of the program in
March 2012 – 16 months after Hurricane Tomas.
program is going very well, and people are asking me if it will
continue,” Julien said. His store was packed with bags of Tchako
rice from the U.S.-based cooperative Riceland, one of the
world’s largest rice exporters and the largest recipient of U.S.
government farm subsidies. According to Oxfam Senior Research
Marc Cohen, between 1995 and 2010, Riceland collected over
US$500 million from Washington.
Julien said Kore Lavni Nou “really helps people… not only
the beneficiaries, but also me, as a businessman. I used to sell
50 sacks [of rice], but now I sell 100 sacks. So business has
really improved.” Program beneficiaries were also pleased.
wanted to investigate whether all beneficiaries were indeed
victims of hurricanes Tomas or Sandy, and/or if they fit the
CARE criteria. Due to lack of time and human resources, a survey
with a representative sample was not possible.
However, HGW did note that Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which
also carried out a USAID-funded food voucher program in the
region, said there were signs of some corruption in a report
given at a September 2012 food voucher workshop sponsored by
USAID. A CRS PowerPoint obtained by HGW noted that “partisan
infiltration of beneficiary” lists was one of several
all Kore Lavni Nou beneficiaries were willing to speak
openly. But at one household in Chambellan – where at least two
voucher beneficiaries lived together – Marie Edith Dubrevil was
happy to talk. She represented herself as someone living in
“misery,” and told HGW that her region was “miserable.” She said
that she started getting coupons in June or July 2012, about 18
months after Hurricane Tomas, thanks to a church worker.
“Every now and then one of the supervisors would check to see if
my name got onto the list,” Dubrevil said. “Two months ago my
name came up... Now, thanks to the program, I get rice, and it’s
good rice… I wasn't able to eat that kind of thing because I am
poor, but now, thanks to CARE and USAID, I applaud them, because
my life has changed!”
Dubrevil and her aunt, 89-year-old Louima Leon, who is also a
beneficiary, said that before the program, they mainly ate
breadfruit, plantains, sweet potatoes, yam, and taro. “Now we
eat rice, beans, and cornmeal,” Leon said. [See Aid or Trade?
for more on diet changes]
earthquake, the U.S. alone has provided US$22.5 million worth of
food vouchers to 179,000 people, according to the 2013 version
of the USAID-BEST Analysis, a report on USAID-funded food aid
produced every year.
the CARE program focused on imported food, some programs have
utilized – at least in part – locally produced food. The CRS
food voucher program in Grande Anse allowed beneficiaries to buy
yams and potatoes, according to the agency’s report, made public
at the September 2012 workshop. (HGW was not able to look into
the CRS program.)
Another report, from Action Contre la Faim (ACF),
described a post-earthquake program for 15,000 families who
received “fresh food” vouchers. Merchants included street
vendors (most of whom are women) as well as shops.
food aid programs in Haiti use locally procured food. In 2012,
the World Food Program (WFP) bought over 27% of its food
locally, according the BEST report. The WFP is also piloting the
purchase and distribution of local milk as part of the national
school meal program.
their written report on the workshop, Aba Grangou
representatives Frisnel Désir and Rédjino Mompremier expressed
their concerns, noting that the programs reviewed were all
short-term, “with no integration of regional production and with
no exit strategies. In other words, once the project is over,
the beneficiary will return to his or her original situation.”
et Mompremier also called for more focus on local products and
on outreach to promote the use of local rather than imported
“People who are hungry clearly give imported products more
social value," they wrote. "The integration of local products
needs to be accompanied by other measures related to production
and to transportation all the way to the point of sale in the
Robert Brutus, director of Aba Grangou, told HGW that
everyone “learned lessons” from the Grande Anse program. Brutus
promised that the new food voucher program will promote local
food as much as possible, and will be “structured in a way that
encourages food producers in the region to produce food.”
[a farmer] knows there is a guarantee that people will buy, he
will produce,” Brutus said.
far, details of new program have not been announced, but as of
this writing, it appears the current U.S. Farm Bill will be
extended again, meaning that most U.S. food aid programs will
need to use U.S. products.
Agronomists Auguste and Fanor both told HGW that Grande Anse
farmers will need more than a “guarantee” to improve their
output. Both said the government must intervene to deal with the
structural issues. But neither the government nor foreign
agencies have yet announced any major agricultural projects
aimed at increasing production in Grande Anse.
walked around his demonstration plot, Auguste talked excitedly
about the potential of the peninsula. But he was also very
worried, because every year he sees more people leaving their
fields, nailing shut their fences, boarding up their homes, and
leaving for the capital.
we don’t root out the structural causes and try to solve them,
we are going to become like Savane Desolée,” said Auguste,
referring to an arid region near Gonaïves whose name in English
means “Desolate Savannah.”
called on the government to build roads, help with irrigation
systems, and create seed banks. “The state has a major role to
play,” he told HGW.
the meantime, the farmers in the ROPADAM network continue to
farm and to promote their products, like “verichips” –
similar to potato chips but made with breadfruit (called “lanm
veritab” in Kreyòl).
are the breadbasket for Haiti,” Dadignac told HGW. “We have a
government that has given up. We need agronomists, technicians,
who can help us produce more. We need agricultural stores where
we can find seeds and things. That’s what should be in the
Sep. 27, USAID announced the launch of a new program, “Kore
Lavi” (“Support Life”). CARE will work with the Ministry of
Social Affairs to, among other actions, “reach approximately
250,000 households by providing food vouchers,” USAID said in
asked CARE if the new program would be like the “test” program
in Grande Anse, with an emphasis on mostly imported food. CARE
promised a response via email by Oct. 5, but then never followed
Watch is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society of the
Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women
Community Radio Broadcasters (REFRAKA), community radio stations
from the Association of Haitian Community Media and students
from the Journalism Laboratory at the State University of Haiti.
This series distributed in collaboration with Haïti Liberté.