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As spring approaches, it is time again for farmers to prepare for the planting season. However,
just as in every other sector of the country, the agricultural sector is not spared the agony of the
senseless violence causing agony, misery, and pain to an entire population. Just as has been the
case in the past two planting seasons, farmers are facing shortages in products that they need to
assure a bumper harvest. The price of most of the items they need to start and manage their
season has tripled or quadrupled since last planting season while in most cases, subsidized items
are not able to reach the intended recipients, as dozens of service providers and suppliers have
packed up and wholesale providers have abandoned their activities. The blocking of major
arteries across the country has resulted in many difficulties for transporting agricultural products
to the various agricultural areas. During the last winter season, the vast majority of farmers did
not have access to chemical fertilizers, and this year, the story is the same, with the price of a
100-pound bag of chemical fertilizer shooting up to 12,000 gourdes, clearly out of reach for
farmers for whom the past few years have brought very small harvests and smaller income.
Furthermore, in areas such as Martissant and near Canaan, several trucks transporting products
intended for agricultural production are routinely hijacked, such that many suppliers no longer
take the risk of securing supplies while others are forced to deal with extortion from gangs and
certain law enforcement agents to let them pass.
In this chaotic situation, farmers are the unfortunate ones who pay the highest price. Many of
them have abandoned their plots, while others, more attached to their land, are forced to do
without chemical fertilizers at the risk of having an average harvest, compared to previous years.
Farmers in the hinterland, especially in the Centre Department, such as Maïssade have drawn the
government’s attention to their plight in the hope that the latter will intervene and help m procure
needed supplies. Farmers in other Departments have also shared that the main obstacle to a good
planting season is the insecurity that robs them of the ability to acquire needed products or
materials such as fertilizer and equipment to till the land. To enhance the quality of arable land
that produces a bumper harvest, more than 66,000 bags of fertilizer are needed. Last year, with
the support of the Resilient Agriculture Project for Food Security, Projet d’agriculture résiliente
pour la sécurité alimentaire (PARSA) 7,800 bags of fertilizer were distributed to farmers,
representing about 12% of the need, while part of the rest was purchased on the market and much
the need was met. If major planters can get needed planting related products at any cost, small
producers are forced either to abandon their plots or do without fertilizers, which results in
higher prices of foodstuff in the markets.
Meanwhile, prices of foodstuff such as oil, wheat, cooking oil, and rice from Asia and shipping
in general are on the decline, returning in some cases to pre-war levels between Russia and
Ukraine, that started in March 2022. However in Haiti, year-on-year inflation continues to climb,
reaching 49.3% in January 2023. The gourde has been in a free-fall for some time now, dropping
to 164 gourdes to the dollar in recent months. According to the National Food Security
Coordination, Coordination nationale de la sécurité alimentaire (CNSA) results of the updated
Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projected analysis indicated that 4.9 million
people have acute food insecurity and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance for the period
from March to June 2023. The siege of the capital by armed bands prevents the normal
circulation of goods, and the violence and insecurity are among other factors, further aggravating
food insecurity.

In other news, a jury in Boston awarded US$15.5m to three (3) Haitians who brought a case
against the former mayor of the small town of Les Irois, Jean Morose Viliena, over allegations
that he led a brutal campaign against his political opponents. The jury found Mr. Viliena liable on
claims he persecuted them and their relatives during his time as the mayor. The suit which was
filed in 2017 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, allows for U.S. lawsuits against foreign
officials accused of extrajudicial killings or torture when avenues for redress in their home
countries are exhausted. The plaintiffs, David Boniface, Juders Yseme, and Nissage Martyr
alleged that the courts in Haiti dismissed their case and with the ability to seek redress in the US,
they took Mr. Viliena to account for human rights abuses perpetrated against them. The plaintiffs
said in 2007, Viliena led a group of armed men to Boniface’s home who beat and fatally shot his
brother, and later mobilized a group in 2008 that beat and shot Martyr and Yseme at a
community radio station, where Martyr lost a leg and Yseme was blinded in one eye. Martyr died
in 2017 after suing, and his son now serves as a plaintiff in his place. The lawsuit also claimed
that in 2009, the mayor coordinated a mass arson of dozens of homes occupied by the plaintiffs
and people associated with the political opposition in Les Irois. The civil case shed a light on
widespread violence that has plagued Haiti, where armed gangs have been expanded their reach
and gun battles between police and crime groups are routine. The $15.5 million awarded to the
plaintiffs includes $11 million in punitive damages, according to their lawyers at the human
rights group, Center for Justice, and Accountability. While the plaintiffs hail the verdict as
rendering justice to them, their families and others who have been victims of Viliena’s campaign
of terror continue to seek justice. The former mayor turned truck driver in Massachusetts denied
any wrongdoing, arguing that he took no personal action against any of the plaintiffs. According
to the plaintiffs: David Boniface, Juders Ysemé, and Nissandère Martyr, the former Mayor began
a campaign of terror against opponents of former President Martelly in 2007, especially Boniface
who tried to defend a neighbor who the mayor allegedly assaulted for piling garbage on the
street. Mayor Viliena allegedly led a group of men armed with guns, machetes and clubs to
Boniface’s home. In Boniface’s absence, his younger brother, Eclesiaste Boniface, was dragged
out of the house and fatally shot by one of Viliena’s men. When the victims sought justice in
Haiti, the case was dismissed. Now living in the US, the victims took the opportunity to serve
Mr. Vileta in a US court.
Dela Harlley

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