Planet Money

How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers

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a classroom in rural Haiti

Students in a makeshift classrom in l'Artibonite, Haiti. Sebastien Narcisse hide caption

toggle caption Sebastien Narcisse

L'Artibonite, a Haitian town two hours north of Port-au-Prince, wasn't damaged in this year's earthquake. But the foreign aid that flowed into Haiti after the quake has been a blow to the area.

Most of the people in l'Artibonite earn their living by growing and selling rice, Haiti's staple food. But the influx of foreign food aid has meant that many Haitians can now get rice for free. As a result, the price of rice in Haiti has plummeted.

Mirana Honorable, a rice farmer, has to choose between selling enough rice to pay for her children to go to school, and having enough rice for her family to eat.

Mirana Honorable

Mirana Honorable and her daughter, in their home in l'Artibonite. Adam Davidson/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Davidson/NPR

For the moment, the family is going hungry so the kids can go to school.

Classes are held in a small, one-room church. Blackboards are leaned up on the walls; the kids sit in pews.

On a recent day, fifth graders were studying French, fourth graders were studying math. The teacher spent lots of time writing out full paragraphs on the board, for children who could not afford books.

Tuition is about $45. In most years, most of the kids can't afford to pay all of the tuition. This year, with the problems in the rice market, the schools is barely getting anything, according to Enselm Simpliste, the school's principal.

Simpliste isn't angry that Haitians in Port-au-Prince got free rice. But, he's sorry there hasn't been any help up here, away from the earthquake zone. One foreigner came a few months ago and asked what they need, he says. But they haven't heard from him since.

Update: Thank you so much for your offers of support for the school children of l'Artibonite. The principal of the school, Enselm Simpliste, has set up an account to accept donations for the school at Fonkoze, a microcredit group based in Haiti.



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