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Focus on Sustainable Farming in Haiti
May 19, 2010

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Five months after a devastating earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti is still rebuilding. One of the poorest countries around, Haiti certainly didn't need anything like the 7.0-magnitude quake that killed tens of thousands of people and leveled the Presidential Palace and hundreds of other buildings with it.

Singer Wyclef Jean, a native of Haiti, has announced a new infusion of money and interest for Yele Haiti, his charitable organization begun in La Plaine in 2005 to help people who even then had very little in the ways of food, shelter, and medical aid.

A wide-ranging initiative, Yele Haiti has an agricultural component aimed at job creation alongside sustainable farming. This is Yele Cuisine. At two sites in Port-au-Prince, Yele Haiti workers sell some food at market rates and provide other food to schools, hospitals, and orphanages. The people who prepare that food have real jobs that pay real money, and what they produce is real sustenance for the starving Haitian poor. A paying job is a big deal in Haiti, a country that claims just one-third of the population as having a formal job. As a result, about 80 percent of the Haitian people are below the poverty line and nearly half of all Haitian children are suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Haitian community associations, alongside the United NationsWorld Food Program and envoys from the Government of Canada, have worked for a few years now to get food to people who need it most. Now, Jean says, Yele Cuisine is expanding its reach into what he hopes is a permanent farming community near the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, eight miles northeast of Port-au-Prince. The goal is for 5,000 people to live there and work the land, planting and rotating and replanting the crops, so that many more than the few thousand who live there can have fresh, locally produced food.

Jean's next goal is to do more of the same, opening more markets and setting up more farming communities, so that a successful model of sustainability and nutrition can become widespread in a country whose people desperately need not only outside aid but also the ability to fend for themselves.

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