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Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty. Nearly 50% of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector for employment, of whom most are small-scale subsistence farmers. Unemployment is estimated at 70%, and the informal economy is growing slightly more than the slow progress of the formal economy. In August and September 2008, Haiti was struck by three tropical storms. The government of Haiti says 86,000 people are now living in temporary shelters. Some 10,842 houses have been destroyed, and 35,125 damaged. Livelihoods and crops have been destroyed, and the entire road system, including seven important bridges, has been severely damaged.
This study was a pilot of the nascent EMMA approach with the dual purpose of better understanding critical market systems for the population directly and indirectly affected by the cyclone and gaining learning that could be used to improve the toolkit itself. The EMMA team covered Artibonite (timber), the communes of St. Marc, Desdunes and Grande Saline (beans) and Jacmel, La Vallee and Bainet in the South East (beans).
Haïti’s forests are constantly under threat because of illegal cutting of wood for construction and charcoal. To protect this natural resource, the Haïtian government encourages the importation of the timber from countries who have vast forests of timber under sustainable management, and imports are highly regulated to ensure compliance. The importers sell to wholesalers, who supply directly to the market in the capital. The timber is sold directly to the households by the local distributors. Consumers bear the cost of transportation. Prices have not changed much over the last few years, indicating a highly steady market. Competition is weak at the level of wholesalers in Saint-Marc, where price fixing by the six wholesalers is common. The imported timber market system has hardly been affected at all by the cyclones. All indications point towards a system very capable of supplying the targeted population with the timber they need. Households expressed the preference for ‘direct purchase’ or in-kind due to their concerns regarding corruption of traders and ability to access timber.
The report recommends the direct purchase of timber from regional traders for delivery to beneficiary sites. It may be worth investigating a voucher-system instead of an in-kind distribution, which would need to be supported with trader transportation of timber directly to their households. Also recommended is additional research and cross-checking with the Shelter Cluster, government stakeholders and affected communities.
Beans are an an essential component of the Haitian diet and a good indicator of the overall functioning of the food market in the country. Generally, Haitians prefer beans produced from their region. Even though the prices of imported beans are much lower than the price of locally produced beans, families tend to consume less of their preferred, local choice, rather than purchase the cheaper, but less favored imported beans. When local stocks are low and prices high, imported beans are consumed in higher quantities. The losses to bean crops because of the cyclone will have an impact on national and household food security for at least another year. Currently, farmers have no income to invest in planting due to significant loss of assets and loss of income. At the same time, bean supplies are available in sufficient quantities to be able to meet the demand of target households. Traders are able to access further supplies and many say they only need demand to increase, though others operating in affected areas may need support to supply targeted households. Destruction of trader stocks and storage facilities and the breakdown of the informal credit system will affect the early recovery of market system actors in the affected areas. It is likely that prices will take time to decrease to pre-crisis levels. Further, the decrease in demand due to either lack of cash or food aid is compounding traders’ efforts to recover.
Recommendations for the bean market system include cash-based interventions to increase the purchasing power of target beneficiaries; the provision of local and/or well-adapted bean seeds to farmers in time for agricultural production for the next season and supporting them with vegetable nurseries; the supply of credit to farmers to restore productive assets/infrastructure; the supply of credit to wholesalers whose stores were destroyed; market support activities to improve market system performance and monitoring and phase out of food aid activities.