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Keywords:

  • Haiti;
  • food security;
  • livelihoods;
  • development

In April 2008, the global rise in food prices reached a breaking point in Haiti where a series of food riots swept across the country. The majority of Haitians depend on the marketplace for food, especially imported rice. The dependence on the marketplace for food and the rise in prices has caused households to reduce purchases leading to growing hunger especially among the rural poor. Haiti's vulnerability to the food crisis is not a problem of supply; it's because of the high cost of living, lavichè in Haitian Creole. This article poses the question, why is Haiti, a country rooted in peasant agricultural production, vulnerable to the rise in global food prices. I propose that answers to the current crisis come from an understanding of rural livelihoods, strategies for accessing food, and global food policies. Rural households are not subsistence producers. Ironically, they have suffered most from the rise in prices because of their dependence on the marketplace. Changing consumption patterns relying on imported rather than domestic staples have increased vulnerability to rising prices. Additionally, economic policies surrounding the import and marketing of food have further increased Haiti's dependence on imports. Understanding the trends leading to Haiti's current food crisis will help to inform policies and programs aimed at providing temporary food assistance and hopefully lead to more effective development programs. This article is based on research conducted in rural Haiti during the summer of 2008, part of which was for World Vision International as it prepared to mitigate the crisis through food assistance programs.