Locals will bring farming advice to Haiti
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 7, 2010 1:46 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Nine months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people in Haiti, the Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry is partnering with Mount Olive College and the North Carolina Agribusiness Council for Project Help Haiti.
The organization is asking people to give of their time and talents to help Haitians learn agribusiness skills such as modern animal husbandry and crop management.
North Carolina is uniquely suited to the task of helping Haiti become more independent because of its close ties to agriculture, Mount Olive College agribusiness professor Dr. Peter Appleton said.
Roughly 9 million people are living in a space about the size of six or seven N.C. counties, and as many as half a million Haitians are living in tents after the earthquake destroyed many homes. Unemployment is high, and most food resources are coming from foreign aid -- assistance that is beginning to dry up after the initial rush, Appleton said.
"They're tired of living in tents, they're tired of not having enough to eat, they're tired of not having a job," he said.
Even before the earthquake, only about 20 percent of food consumed in Haiti was actually produced in the country, ranked as the poorest in Western Hemisphere according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.
After the earthquake, only about 10-15 percent of food in Haiti is produced there, Appleton said.
"Our concern is, what happens to all these people when they're not producing food anymore?" he said.
Project Help Haiti seeks to put North Carolina agribusiness experts to work sharing their knowledge with the people of Haiti. Farmers and veterinarians are just a few examples of the people with skills who could help rebuild the country through agribusiness, Appleton said.
The partnership is in for the long haul and plans to work in the country for about the next 10 years, he said. The project leaders are working to form partnerships with many groups, businesses, and individuals.
A group of Mount Olive College students and faculty will travel to Haiti this December and again in the spring as cultural ambassadors, reaching out to the young people of Haiti to start forming the connections the project needs to be successful. Building relationships between Haitians and the aid organizations will be key to the mission's success, Appleton said.
The mission trip is an important part of the outreach, and a vital aspect of global education for today's students, he said.
Another goal is to eventually bring several Haitians to Wayne County to learn agribusiness and leadership skills from local colleges. Haiti experienced "a lot of poverty, corruption and destruction" even before the earthquake, but sharing North Carolina's wealth of information and resources with the people of Haiti could make a big difference in their lives, Appleton said.
"I think when something like Haiti happens, it shows us what we're all about," he said.
The Harvest Connection Disaster Relief Ministry, which previously assisted in cleaning up from the Gulf hurricanes of 2005, is a ministry of the Original Free Will Baptist Convention.