Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Problems with "cash-for-work" programs in Haiti

Some of the hundreds of Non-Governmental Organizations in Haiti have people participating in "Cash-for-work" programs. This program pays people for temporary day jobs in an effort to put money into the disaster area.

An investigative report from Haiti Grassroots Watch shows some of the drawbacks of "cash for work." The story says that there is some corruption within the programs, but that is a small problem compared to what they discovered.

"The main impact of cash-for-work is on the circulation of money," noted Haitian economist Gerald Chéry, adding that whereas the programme was helpful immediately following the Jan. 12 earthquake, today it is having a perverse effect because people use their money mostly to buy imported food, or items – again, mostly imported – to hawk on the street.

Over half of the food Haitians eat is imported. In 2008, Haiti imported almost $1 billion in goods and services from the U.S. alone, spending some $325 million on food.

"We need the money to circulate in Haiti, not leave Haiti to go to another country. The money needs to stay in Haiti so that it will create work," Chéry said, adding that to be useful, job programmes need to be tied into a vertically integrated economic effort.

Another problem is that in the countryside, the programmes – which are supposedly targeting earthquake refugees – appear to be drawing peasants off the land.

Agronomist Philippe Céloi, who supervises a six-month Catholic Relief Services programme in the south, admitted that most of his 468 workers were local peasants, not refugees from the capital.

"After six months there will be benefits – not only the workers have gotten a salary but also the community benefits," Céloi said.

Asked about farmers' fields however, Céloi admitted there was a downside.

"These people are not doing the planting they ought to be doing. Right now it's bean season… And they aren't planting potatoes or manioc or sorghum, so when this programme ends, there is going to be a problem," he said.

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