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On January 12, 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit the island of Haiti, approximately 25 km west of Port au Prince. The Haitian government estimated that up to 230,000 died country-wide in the quake, and another 300,000 were injured. According to the UN, approximately 800,000 have been displaced in Port au Prince, many of whom are living in spontaneous urban camps. Approximately 38% of all buildings in greater Port au Prince have been damaged or destroyed. WFP has distributed food to more than 2.5 million people in Port au Prince and outlying areas.
This EMMA study was conducted about four weeks after the earthquake, focusing on the beans market system and the earthquake-affected population in Port-au-Prince. The key analytical question guiding the study focused on the optimal form and timing of aid in order to avoid negative effects on the bean market system.
On average, Haitians consume 70,000-80,000 tons of beans per year. The large majority of beans found in Haitian markets are produced locally. In 2009, Haitian farmers produced approximately 80% of beans consumed, imports accounted for about 10-15%, and food aid made up the remaining 5-10%. Imports and food aid fluctuate depending on national production. Imports from the Dominican Republic are limited and informal; the United States provides the majority of bean imports.
The primary impact of the earthquake on the bean market system has been a decline in consumer income, which translates into a sudden decrease in demand for beans. The impacts of this decrease in demand have spread through the bean market system and will have serious effects if they are not addressed in the immediate term. The decrease in demand has led to a tightening of formal and informal credit, which affects the livelihoods of rural and urban Madame Saras and constricts the bean trade. Many retailers have been forced to take on a second debt, where possible, to restock after earthquake damages. The second impact is linked to production. The March planting season yields the primary bean harvest in May/June. As farmers in the mountainous regions of Haiti view the sudden drop in demand, they may invest less in their upcoming planting season, which will directly impact the national supply of beans for this year.
This report recommends stimulating demand through cash transfers or vouchers. If consumers were able to purchase at pre-earthquake levels, credit issues would ease, and farmers would continue to plant as normal. A second recommendation is to repair the port and allow for trade. Additional recommendations include implementing cash for work projects to repair infrastructure and damaged roads, paying trader debts, transferring cash to farmers for seed purchase and increasing market security. Food aid must not be the first response to this issue; only if programs to restore the market chain fail, then food aid should be considered. When designing food aid programs, local and regional purchase should be considered.