In Aug. 2019, a USAID food insecurity program in Haiti, known as Kore Lavi, ended after five years of providing nutritious meals to malnourished Haitians. This comes at a time when an estimated 2.6 million Haitians — about a quarter of the population — still face food insecurity. Yet, Haitians are optimistic about the future. The Haitian government looks to build on Kore Lavi’s successful model through MAST, the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system and CARE’s micro-loan system.
Today, Haiti is the most poverty-stricken nation in the Western Hemisphere; almost 60 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Corruption, natural disasters and high inflation are seen are the most prevalent impediments to Haiti’s economic growth. After the devastating earthquake in Jan. 2010 that decimated much of Port-au-Prince, the country was in dire need of a food insecurity program.
Kore Lavi, meaning “supporting life” in Creole, began in Sept. 2013 and has benefited 18,000 households from 21 food-insecure communes in the Northeast, Southeast, Central Plateau and Artibonite regions of Haiti, as well as the Isle of La Gonave. The program was originally scheduled to end in 2017, but after Hurricane Matthew destroyed many of the nation’s homes and crops, USAID extended Kore Lavi for two more years. The consortium was administered by MAST, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, along with the help of four NGOs: Action Against Hunger, World Vision, the World Food Programme and CARE International.
Kore Lavi’s Success
The initiative’s strategy for combating food insecurity involved promoting the consumption of fresh, locally-produced food such as meat, fish and vegetables, which could be purchased at vendors approved by the program. Laurore Antoine, the coordinator of the program, believes this was an innovative method at the time. “We wanted to divorce ourselves from the traditional approach. We wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so we boosted local production, as well,” Antoine told VOA.
Kore Lavi provided participants with monthly vouchers and the opportunity to participate in a formal market. This, according to CARE, provided Haitians with an increased sense of dignity by making their own food choices and gave local farmers the opportunity to participate in a stronger economy. In its first year alone, Kore Lavi provided 109,790 people access to locally produced foods. In its first four years, the program provided malnutrition treatment to 83,000 children under the age of 5.
Building on Progress
From the outset, Kore Lavi’s plan was to cultivate local ownership through collaboration with local officials at every level of program implementation. The vision was always for Kore Lavi to phase out and have the Haitian government take the reins, according to CARE. The program was designed to implement a sustainable social safety net and, in the future, to be “country-led and county-run.”
One objective of Kore Lavi was to implement an equitable and effective means of reaching the most at-risk households. To that end, MAST developed the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system, which allows the government to more effectively identify and target households most vulnerable to food insecurity. Alexis Barnes, acting senior development, outreach and communications officer for USAID in Port-au-Prince, explained to VOA that this mapping system is now “supported by other donors such as the European Union, and international NGOs working on activities serving the most vulnerable.”
CARE also implemented a micro-loan system to support the food program. Antoine believes this system will “motivate former participants to unite and borrow money to launch small businesses that can pick up where Kore Lavi left off.” Youri Latortue, a Haitian lawmaker and poultry farmer, believes it is time for the Haitian government “to step in to do its part.” By boosting national food production, Latortue is hopeful that Haiti can end the food insecurity crisis. “That’s the only way out of this crisis,” he said in an interview. Although, Antoine acknowledges that MAST must secure financial resources to continue funding the program.
Looking Towards the Future
Barnes is optimistic Haiti will continue the progress: “The program succeeded in demonstrating that the government of Haiti can manage a predictable social transfer activity to the most vulnerable in this country in a well-targeted and transparent manner.” Though Kori Lavi has officially ended, its food voucher-based safety net system remains in place. This system has changed the lives of many beneficiaries over the past five years, many of them among the most vulnerable. Kore Lavi has lifted many of those facing extreme hunger and malnutrition out of desperation and provided hope for the future.
– Adam Bentz