Heifer Haiti – Update on earthquake recovery and rehabilitation

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On January 12, 2010, a devastating 7.0–magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing more than two million. At the time of the earthquake, Heifer International was reorganizing its Haiti program, which had six employees in two offices—in Les Cayes in the south and Cap-Haitien in the north.

Haiti has worked in Haiti for more than 10 years and in January the Haiti country team was managing 16 projects aiding more than 16,000 limited-scale farmers. Projects included organizational strengthening, training in sustainable farming, nutrition, aquaculture and gifts of livestock, seeds and trees.

Heifer International is not a first responder agency, but immediately after the earthquake, Heifer country staff coordinated and worked with local and international relief organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to injured and displaced people. For weeks after the earthquake, the Haiti team provided water, rice, sugar, medicine and transportation to local health clinics and shelters for more than 2,000 people in Les Cayes and Cap-Haitien.

While the Haiti team supported organizations responding to the increasing needs of earthquake victims, Heifer International issued a call for donations to fund the rehabilitation and rebuilding work that would be needed once the emergency response was complete and efforts turned to sustainable and long-term recovery. Donors and supporters responded quickly, providing more than $1 million in initial funding to help the people of the small Caribbean nation.

A member of InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations, Heifer International has participated in discussions with domestic and international aid-organizations to leverage resources and coordinate relief and post-earthquake activities in Haiti for increased efficiencies. Other participants include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF), Partners in Health (PIH), and Doctors Without Borders, among others.

A Heifer International survey team comprised of Edwin Rocha and Jesus Pizarro, director of programs and director of finance and administration for Heifer’s Americas program, as well as Stephen Northcutt from Information Technology, arrived in Port-au-Prince on March 18.

While in Haiti, team members met with Heifer Haiti staff and current and potential partner organizations, such as Partners in Health, Partners in Agriculture, Tet Kole Ti Peyisant Movement and representatives of the United Nations Agriculture Cluster to determine needs and opportunities for rebuilding and expanding Heifer’s Haiti program and to ensure optimum use of available resources and expertise.

Emergency team members, who will implement Heifer’s recovery and rehabilitation efforts in immediate and long-term activities, were also chosen during the March visit.

Heifer’s efforts will focus on re-establishing sustainable food systems and funding and implementing partners will reflect Heifer’s values and work to help small-scale Haitian farmers and rural communities tom secure healthy, culturally appropriate foods and to help strengthen grassroots organizations to help build a sustainable economy.

Following a review of Heifer Haiti’s projects and field-level assessments, Heifer Haiti is extending the life cycle of some projects while others, close to the end of their monitoring phase, are being closed to maximize resources.

Distribution of resources has begun in communities with existing projects in hope that backyard vegetable gardens and fast-producing small animal species such as pigs, fish and poultry will contribute to ensuring family food security. Additionally, work has begun to help strengthen local grassroots organizations so they will be better prepared to respond to future disasters.

The Haiti Emergency team is preparing for a two-day meeting in Haiti at the end of May with current and potential partners. Discussions will cover the Haiti Recovery and Rehabilitation Program, where Heifer will use its experiences in sustainable community development, respect for human dignity, local knowledge, agro-ecology and environmental preservation to reach even more families over a greater geographic area.

Heifer leadership will review the Rehabilitation and Recovery Program, including a three-year plan to continue current programming as well as an expansion of Heifer’s work to new areas and more communities, in July.