This post is a sad one, really. “Haitian Mud Biscuits” are a harsh reality, and they are exactly what the name implies. In a world where there should be (and is!) enough food for everyone to eat well, many Haitians are living in such poverty and squalid conditions that they are literally eating dirt.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. And visitors to the shanty towns of Haiti who come from “lands of plenty” will be shocked at what they find commonplace in the local markets. A dingy yellow colored, round “food” product, about the size of a breakfast pancake. It is breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many people here, who must actually eat dirt in order to not starve to death.
They’re Haitian mud biscuits, made from clay, with some salt, vegetable oil and water. Eating one will ward off the hunger pains for 2 or 3 hours. Food prices are soaring in Haiti, while wages are static or falling. Haiti is at the desperate whip end of a food crisis that stretches around the planet. Therefore the market for these mud cakes is booming.
As a tragic result? The people are now making meager incomes producing, and also eating, as a staple diet …
Haitian Mud Biscuits
The following is some background on this horrid state of affairs, how it has come to be, and even a “how-to” segment if you are interested in making some Haitian mud biscuits to see for yourself just how destitute someone would need to be to take them as their daily sustenance.
Food prices soared, globally, 55 % from June 2007 to February 2008. And poor countries, like Haiti, have been hit especially hard, because they often rely on rice as a staple in their diets. Rice prices rose, during this period a whopping 87 percent! This has led to the dire situation in Haiti where the general poor masses cannot even afford a plate of rice to eat once a day. And the prognosis for the future is bleak – prices of all staples are expected to rise for the next decade.
Let’s take a look at some reasons why food prices are escalating out of control:
- Oil prices are directly related to the price of food. It takes oil to manufacture the fertilizers that farmers use to grow food. Oil is used to ship food, and oil is what is used to light up, heat, and cool the warehouses that store food and the retail stores where food is sold to the public. As we know, the price of oil has done nothing but go up in the past decade. And with this rise also goes up the price of our food.
- Also contributing to the rise in food prices is the rise in production of “bio-fuels” – this is an ethanol product that is made with corn. The same corn that could be feeding people is instead turned into ethanol, which is mixed with petroleum to make what is called “flexible fuel”. Now to its credit, bio-fuel does help cut the cost of food transportation, but the production of it is overall more harmful to the world food situation. The transportation reduction in cost is far outweighed by the loss of consumable food for the world.
- And it gets worse. When farmers realized how much more they could make raising corn for the government’s bio-fuel initiative, many of them who were growing wheat and other grains switched to corn. Corn that would be turned into fuel, not food. With the lesser supply of wheat, and the same demand for it, the price of wheat and other grains soared. Bread, pastry, tortillas, etc., all grain food products jacked up sky high in cost.
- While the World Bank purports that bio-fuels have impacted the rising cost of food by as much 75 per cent, most analysts agree the percentage is more like around 25 per cent.
Bottom line when it comes to bio-fuels and the effect they are having on world hunger? At the minimum, at least one fourth of the world food-price crisis is because, as a consensus, people in charge of the global economy consider it a better idea to burn food than to allow people to eat it.
- Exacerbating the bio-fuels problem has been unusual and inclement weather. Floods in the USA, wheat rust in Asia, and the recent Australian drought, which lasted some ten years.
- Worse and more insidious is the collusion and price speculation within the food industry which has tacked on another hefty layer to the price of food. Price-fixing investigations into major supermarkets in Spain, Britain and South Africa, conducted by the Office of Fair Trade (OFT) indeed uncovered illicit price fixing practices which overcharged consumers.
Is there really a food shortage? Is it a fact that there are just too many people on the planet for the food supply to feed properly?
It is a well documented fact that the overall food production in the world has been growing at a rate faster than the world’s population for some 50 years now. There is no lack of food causing this global food shortage crisis – it is the result of a complete and shameful lack of political will. There is no reason – other than politics and greed – for any culture or group of people to have to suffer for lack of decent sustenance.
And yet we have tragic situations like this, in Haiti, where people are reduced to eating Haitian mud biscuits. Dirt, people. They are eating salted mud.
Here is a video presentation on how this sad state of affairs has affected this poor country, as well as how Haitian mud biscuits are made.
Today, there are around 1 billion people going hungry, suffering from near to actual starvation. That number has risen from about 850 million in the past decade.
Haiti, where people are eating Haitian mud biscuits, is a prime example of the disparity between the uncaring fortunate and the desperate unfortunate. Should you visit the cruise port of Labadee, you would find more varieties of good food than you can shake a visa card at. However, the general public, the masses of Haitian natives, are simply too poor to be able to buy any real food.
There are well-intentioned (but misguided) organizations, in America, trying to defeat world hunger. But their policies are counter-productive. American food aid programs have a rule that the food has to come from American farms and be delivered by American ships.
Imagine – here you are, a native, small farmer, trying to eke out a living, and American ships show up bringing free food. You are devastated – wiped out. You have to stop farming. Now you and your family are counted among the world’s hungry people. And if the American ships don’t come often enough? Everyone goes hungry, because local farming has been dealt a fatal blow. The “blessing” of free food has become a curse.
The answer? Free food initiatives and programs should buy food from sources as close to the people in need as possible. Support local farming and transportation facilities.
And another change has to happen. We absolutely must bring to a stop the planet-wide dependence on fossil fuels to produce our food. There are some excellent examples of agro-ecological farming taking place in the regions from Nepal to Nicaragua. This holistic methodology, which doesn’t use pesticides or artificial fertilizers, has proven to produce six times the output of conventional agriculture!
If you are reading this article, I exhort you to please share it with others. Post the link on your Facebook wall. On Twitter. On any and all social media you participate in. Email the link to friends and your circle of influence, with the admonition to pass it on to others as well. We need to come together, as a global community, and demand change. Stand up, united, and make world hunger – the hideous irony of it all – a thing of the past.
And please, also, before you click off and away, leave a comment. I’d like to hear from you. Let’s talk about this. What is your take on global hunger? What are your ideas for solutions? And how would you feel if you and your family had to resort to eating Haitian mud biscuits in the face of starving to death if there was nothing else you could afford to eat?
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