G8 to the Poor: Let Them Eat Dirt

Last week, leaders of the world’s richest countries, the Group of Eight (G8), met at a luxury hotel in Tokyo to chart the course of the global economy. While President Bush and his colleagues discussed world hunger over a six-course lunch, women in Haiti were preparing cakes of dirt for their children’s dinner.

Eating dirt, mixed with salt and vegetable shortening, is the latest coping strategy of Haitian mothers trying to quiet hungry children in a year when the cost of rice (Haiti’s staple food) has risen nearly 150 percent.

Ironically, many of these women were once rice farmers themselves. But in the 1980s, U.S.-grown rice began pouring into Haiti. Thanks to federal subsidies, the imported rice was sold for less than what it cost to grow it. Haitian farmers just couldn’t compete.

Neither could millions of other farmers around the world, who have been bankrupted by the influx of rice, corn, and wheat from the U.S., Europe and Japan. These farmers have gone from growing their own food and feeding their countries to having to buy food that’s priced on a global market. Now that these commodity markets have spiked, millions of more families cannot afford to eat.

The G8 did call for more aid to countries like Haiti that have been hard hit by the spike in food prices. That’s an important step when lives are at stake. But the money is to be administered through the International Monetary Fund, famous for making offers with strings attached.

[Excerpt of a blog post by Yifat Susskind, the communications director of MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide]


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