The Coronavirus pandemic continues to scar people across Haiti physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. While we are grateful the death toll in Haiti has not hit the astronomical numbers that we have seen around the world, the economic toll has been devastating. Farmers left with harvests that cannot be sold because of quarantine restrictions, land that cannot be planted because of lack of financing or access to supplies, and families unable to buy food. The ripple effect of this pandemic continues to stun many.
The Lambi Fund team shifted gears in the beginning of 2020 with the COVID-19 emergency response program which allowed us to distribute approximately 2,500 masks along with other materials that enabled organization members throughout the Artibonite, South and Northwest regions to protect themselves, their families and community members. Hand soap, disinfectant and buckets were also distributed to build community handwashing stations after information on preventative/safety measures were disseminated during training sessions and public service announcements played for all to hear. The third phase of the program was to provide financial support to organization members, which assisted farmers in acquiring the materials necessary to begin their planting. This started with 14 organizations (seven in the South, seven in the Artibonite). Between those organizations, 350 farmers received funds that made up for the loss they suffered while the country was in lockdown mode making it impossible for them to go about their business of selling goods for income.
In the Artibonite region, 175 farmers were beneficiaries of the COVID relief program. The selection process was a bit complex up north due to the large numbers of members that each organization had. Only 25 members from each would be selected to receive the funds, so a specific set of criteria had to be applied for it to remain fair and have the most positive impact. The members who were placed at high priority:
1) were the most vulnerable and in need financially,
2) had the greatest number of dependents that they were responsible for,
3) were unable to plant on land that they had already cultivated due to lack of means or
4) were experienced in planting independently along with receiving assistance from their family members as laborers in agriculture.
Several meetings had to take place with the members to ensure that the selection process was being adhered to and that the beneficiaries fit the criteria. This assistance focused in the Gwomon commune as the cultures that they normally plant are faster in producing harvest that could combat food insecurity in the area - even after the pandemic ends. At the time that this phase of the project had commenced, there was excessive rain. The organization members organized “konbit” (collectives) to work and prepare the land. Through this agricultural solidarity, they helped one another in tending to their gardens swiftly so that they would not succumb to weeds or experience any further delays. They planted sweet potatoes, yucca, okra, strain beans and 2-month beans.
On August 14, 2021, once again Haiti experienced catastrophe. A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the southern part of the country, leaving more than 2,200 people dead, 12,200 injured, and more than 50,000 homes and other facilities destroyed. In the area affected by the earthquake, Lambi Fund serves 60 organizations, with an average of 100 members per organization, in 11 districts. Almost all these organizations have sustained losses resulting from the disaster and have contacted LFH for assistance, as they are accustomed to doing in the event of such natural disasters. Formal damage assessments received so far from representatives of 50 peasant organizations served by Lambi reveal the death of 76 members; 1,687 houses demolished; 2,729 damaged; and 279 injured, including 15 with serious injuries. Additionally, many projects lost their mill houses and nursery pergolas. Many irrigation systems that allowed members of the organizations to cultivate crops, are completely destroyed. Other economic activities, such as women’s trade fell flat because many of the members lost everything when their homes collapsed and some ran away from their merchandise at the local market when the earthquake hit. Sources of drinking water have become muddy. Many of the members of the peasant organizations are now homeless and are sleeping on the streets.
Based on damage assessments received so far from the peasant organizations located in the South, Lambi staff has selected the organizations that have incurred the greatest losses and have greater needs of assistance as we launch this new Emergency program. As we continue to receive damage assessments, we realize that conditions are more serious than we thought. We have started to work most closely with 32 organizations. The number of individuals selected by the Lambi staff from each organization varies with the damage recorded in each association. But on average we are working with about 50 people in each organization.