HOTLINE - week of May 24, 2010

Haitian farmers receive seeds; Families in Serbia benefit from CWS-supported income generation assistance

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Haitians with bag of seds
Haiti—Seed distribution is supporting the most vulnerable, providing relief on the road to recovery.
Photo: ACT Alliance


This past week, some 1,500 people in the community of Petit Goâve, west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, received seeds through the Church World Service-supported ACT Alliance.  

The maize and bean seeds were distributed to the most vulnerable people in the area--the elderly, people from single parent households or families with many children—those affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. The recipients are all members of a farmers' association and were selected by the association to receive seeds.

Yvès Raymond, a young farmer from the mountains, was among the first to get seeds.  ”I left home by midnight and arrived here at 5 a.m.,” he says.  Like everyone else, Raymond will plant his seeds in June, after the heavy rains.  He will be able to harvest the crop in August-September.

Haiti’s food security situation was fragile long before the earthquake. Decades of insufficient food production left Haitians highly dependent on imports. Since the earthquake, an influx of people from Port-au-Prince to rural areas has meant rural dwellers are forced to share their scarce food resources with those who have fled the capital.

In Petit Goâve, people are relieved to get the seeds. ”My parents do not have jobs at the moment, so we have had to find other ways to survive,” Lidor Roseline, a 16-year-old girl says. The family with four children is living in a temporary shelter as their house was damaged in the earthquake.

In rural areas, many farmers lack cash to buy seeds and food prices have already gone up since the earthquake. ”Seed distribution is very welcome here, since it will give people a good harvest,” Joseph Galnave Norre, from the farmers’ association, says.

CWS is expanding its work to help families recover where they are and to support host communities stretched to accommodate migrating survivors. Programs range from repair of houses damaged by the quake and expansion of host homes where survivors are permanently relocating, to building food security by expanding already successful farm cooperatives, including those in Haiti’s Northwest and Artibonite regions.


Zeljko Stanojević is 21 years old and lives in Zemun, near the capital, Belgrade. At the age of nine he was diagnosed with epilepsy and mild mental retardation.  His family lives on a modest income and has done everything to provide him with food, medical treatment and special education. 

Though he successfully graduated, Zeljko had difficulty finding a job. But the CWS-supported Branko Pesic School connected him with Stari Grad Society, an association that supports people with disabilities. Through CWS Income Generation Projects, Zeljko participated in Stari Grad’s training program, where he has learned to make keys. His enthusiasm has increased with his success in learning to operate a key-making machine. Zeljko earns little now, but should soon make enough to start his own family. 

In the northern part of Serbia, another family’s life has also been transformed.  In 1995, Ana and her family escaped from Croatia, having lost everything. Initially, 30 of them shared one room at her cousin’s house in a Roma settlement in Subotica, hoping to earn a living there. They set up an improvised booth where they sold socks and managed to provide for their basic needs.

With the money he got from selling their old property, Ana’s father bought a house in Subotica, making it possible for them to do something on their own. They picked up an old business of making concrete figures. 

With CWS assistance, the family received tools that enabled the precise shaping of the concrete, which improved their competitiveness in the market. Now they make some of the moulds and paint the figures themselves. Their home is breathing again, their yard transformed from something deserted and run-down to a genuine art studio. 

Ana’s family now makes enough money for a normal life, even employing relatives who escaped with them.

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After tornadoes and prolific rains hit the southern U.S., damage was most severe in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi. CWS Emergency Response Specialists have been in contact with disaster recovery personnel in all affected areas. CWS expects to work with long-term recovery partners in multiple states and has sent various CWS Kits to partners in the region. In all cases, CWS expects to provide emergency response grants to nascent long-term recovery groups and material resources as needed.


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