Fishing For Food and a Future in Haiti

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2009) – In a country where children’s bloated bellies and orange hair are ever-present signs of hunger and protein deficiency, Food For The Poor’s fishing villages are providing not only critical food, but economic opportunity for the people who live there.

In just a little over two years, 24 fishing villages have been built in Haiti through Food For The Poor and its donors. The villages dot the country’s coastline and bring essential protein and needed income to communities that previously struggled to get either one from the sea.

When the first fishing village was built in Petite Anse in May 2007, the fishermen were using rustic, unsteady boats, simple poles and lines and were forced to stay close to the shore. They were going after small fish right off the coast and causing damage to the coral reefs, already under assault from runoff caused by decimation of trees. Their catch was small and provided little or no income.

Robin Mahfood, President and CEO of Food For The Poor, a fisherman himself, had a better idea for what he called the virgin territory of Haitian waters. His vision was to equip the fishermen with 22½-foot fiberglass boats with powerful engines, so they could venture farther out in the ocean and catch bigger fish, not just to eat but to sell or barter. Fishermen now can bring in combined catches of 300 to 400 pounds of fish a day.

“There is great hope in the sea,” Mahfood said. “The fishermen can spend less time, get a bigger catch and not only feed their families, but begin to bring in an income from the excess fish. A lady looked at us, and told us that fishing jobs were the lowliest jobs in Haiti before the villages, but now people are looking at them through different eyes, and no longer call them poor.”

In addition to the boats and motors, the villages are equipped with coolers and freezers, locking storage sheds, fishing tackle and safety equipment. Each village costs $60,000. Food For The Poor also builds fishing villages in Jamaica -- there are 17 in that country. In return, the fishermen must agree to contribute a minimum of 5 percent of their catch to help feed others in their communities. 

Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor, calls the villages examples of hope and promise.

“I am reminded of what Jesus said to his disciples when he told them, you will go on to do greater things than I, because you believe in me,” Aloma said. “Everyone knows the story of how Jesus fed the 5,000 and now, through these fishing villages, these people will be able to feed not only themselves but their communities. They will not be eating for just a day, but will have an ongoing supply of food and the dignity that comes with having a steady income.”

Even the children in the communities are able to recognize the difference. A young boy at the recent inauguration of Grand Goave, west of Port-au-Prince, stood before the people in his community and said, “This will allow my dad to go deep into the seas and catch big fish. He can buy clothes for my mom, and food -- and now I can go to school.“

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. We provide emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

CONTACT: Kathy Skipper
Manager, Marketing and Public Relations
954-427-2222, ext. 6614