A ‘safety net’ programme in Haiti is enabling the poorest households to purchase healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables © Steve Goertz/USAID
Each month, 18,000 financially insecure Haitian households are receiving food vouchers which allow them to purchase otherwise unobtainable, locally grown produce from a network of just under 1,000 food vendors across five of Haiti’s ten regional departments. The Government of Haiti, with support from USAID and CARE International, manage this safety net programme in order to provide fruits, vegetables and tubers to households who otherwise would be unable to afford nutritious produce.
By relying on local vendors, the scheme is also strengthening local markets. Designated vendors, who accept the food vouchers as payment, can redeem the vouchers for cash. In some cases, vendors are using the money to expand their businesses, through the purchase of livestock, for example. Three quarters of Haiti’s population live on less than US$2 a day and so money from the voucher scheme is a vital economic stimulus for communities across the country, and has helped to bolster trade in local Haitian markets since its inception in 2013.
The World Bank suggests that 90% of Haiti’s population are vulnerable to natural disasters and the poorest households are most susceptible to food price spikes. The voucher system ensures that families are more resilient to such shocks by helping to foster stronger economic frameworks, which can be relied upon in the event of natural disasters or sudden price increases. This community-managed, safety net scheme is believed to have increased household food security in Haiti and reduced the risk of child malnutrition, not only by making local produce more attainable, but also through the use of outreach officers who provide information related to health and hygiene alongside the food vouchers.
A 2017 CTA study entitled Building the Evidence Base on the Agricultural Nutrition Nexus: Haiti highlights that Haiti has enough food to feed its population only if it imports approximately half of all the food that it needs. Through the use of the food vouchers, the Government of Haiti are aiming to support local agribusinesses in order to reduce Haiti’s reliance on imported produce. “In order to build a stable and economically viable Haiti, addressing issues such as food security are critical,” says USAID spokesperson Ryan Essman. “Assisting Haiti to strengthen its own social protection system will build resilience and help the country better withstand natural disasters.”