CWS Helps Haitians Achieve Food Security

Nearly 100 days after a devastating 7.0-quake devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti, U.S.-based relief organization Church World Service (CWS) is making progress in helping survivors achieve security for their daily meals.

CWS, who has contributed over $2.8 million to the Haiti relief effort, is now committing itself to strengthening 13 farmer cooperatives on the island nation, which are currently helping to provide food for over 3,000 displaced people.

In the cooperative concept, members pool their resources into a common "bank" that allows them to save and borrow money; store grain, share land and animals; educate themselves on managing land and money; and repay their micro-loans.

The cooperatives were originally established by CWS in 2004 in response to Tropical Storm Jeanne, with programs starting in the northwestern part of Haiti to assist families who lost crops and livestock. Four of the 13 cooperatives are about to become self-sustaining.

Now, CWS is planning to expand the program to assist the thousands of people migrating into rural areas of the country.

Donna Derr, CWS's director of development and humanitarian assistance, said the expanded program will provide seeds, fertilizer and livestock, small loans for business start-up and training for rural communities facing new pressures and new challenges.

"The plan is to work with cooperatives in the Northwest and Artibonite areas who will serve between 3,500 and 4,500 local families, with special attention to women-headed households," Derr said. "Many of those have had displaced persons from Port-au-Prince move into their communities."

CWS's 2-year budget for the program is $450,000.

Meanwhile, Haitian President René Préval has called for an influx of funds from the international community to help set up elections in the country, which were cancelled in February because of the quake.

Préval, whose five year term at the presidency ends next year, will not be seeking re-election.

At the end of March, the international community pledged more than $5.3 billion to aid in reconstructing Haiti, surpassing its goal by nearly $1 billion.

United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called the funding "the down payment Haiti needs for wholesale national renewal," while emphasizing that donors must be able to deliver on their promises.

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