How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers : Planet Money Haiti's staple food is rice. Since January's earthquake, 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.
NPR logo

How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers

How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


We're going to get an update on Haiti now. The earthquake was five months ago and many Haitians still rely on aid from the rest of the world. NPR's Planet Money team found out that while aid might help some, it can unintentionally make life difficult for others, especially Haitians outside of the earthquake zone. Adam Davidson and Caitlin Kenney report.

ADAM DAVIDSON: We went to L'Artibonite, which was undamaged. It's two hours north of Port-au-Prince.

CAITLIN KENNEY: When you drive into town, you see rice immediately and everywhere. There's people working out in the rice fields, huge tarps of rice laying out drying in the sun, women carrying huge bags of rice on their heads. And the local market is filled with rice sellers.

DAVIDSON: Rice is the staple food in Haiti. Every meal has rice.

KENNEY: We pull off the road and talk to one woman who's getting her rice ready for planting. Her name is Mirana Honorable. She prefers Madame Claude(ph).

MIRANA HONORABLE: (Foreign language spoken)

KENNEY: She says that even though there was no damage here in l'Artibonite, life has been terrible since the earthquake.

DAVIDSON: People down south, where the damage is, are getting rice for really cheap or for free from all the aid groups - mostly rice imported from America. Madame Claude says it's really hard for the farmers here to compete with free rice, so they're making a lot less money.

KENNEY: She's now facing an unimaginable choice. She and her kids can eat the rice she has, but then she won't have any to sell. Or she can sell the rice and her family will go hungry. Right now that's what she's doing. She's doing it for her kids. She needs the money to pay for their school.

DAVIDSON: She doesn't want her kids to end up doing what she does, she says - scratch out a tiny living from rice. She says she dreams that one day her kids could be doctors or lawyers or engineers.

KENNEY: She says most of the farmers here are like her - they're sacrificing so that their kids can get an education. It's the only way. She says if you want to understand a farmer's life here, what they're working for, you have to meet their kids. You have to visit the school. So she asks: You want to come? I can take you there.

DAVIDSON: Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

KENNEY: Merci.

DAVIDSON: Unidentified Woman #1: (Speaking in foreign language)

DAVIDSON: Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking in foreign language)

KENNEY: While we're in the classroom, I noticed that the teacher spends a lot of time writing full paragraphs on the chalkboard - it was nearly full. And later he tell us that's because he wants the kids who can't afford the books to be able to write down the lessons.

DAVIDSON: The school certainly can't afford to give the kids textbooks or even notebooks. They can't afford to pay the teachers every month. The principal, Enselm Simpliste, tells us that the teachers stick around because they all went to school here and want to help.

KENNEY: Outside in back, the little kids are under a tarp and everywhere you go it's so hot that it's hard to breathe.

DAVIDSON: So this is like sixth-grade: Charles 350, Bernard 150, Jerome 250, Cerose(ph) 50. So in the entire sixth grade, one kid paid most of his account and the majority paid nothing.

ENSELM SIMPLISTE: (Through Translator) Yes. Yes, exactly.

KENNEY: But he says he's sad because there hasn't been any help up here where he lives, away from the earthquake zone. He says one foreigner came a few months and asked what the school needed but they haven't heard from him since.

DAVIDSON: Principal Simpliste says this is a particularly tough time for the rice farmers of L'Artibonite. But as long as the parents are willing to sacrifice what little they have to send their kids to school, he'll make sure to keep classes open.


DAVIDSON: Adam Davidson.

KENNEY: Caitlin Kenney, NPR News, Haiti.


Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.