Food Insecurity in Haiti: A gendered problem

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Vansteenkiste, Jennifer
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University of Guelph

This dissertation applies a gendered analysis to the problem of food insecurity in Haiti, in order to document the impact from, and local responses to, a gender-blind and supply-centric world food economy. This is achieved by investigating the ways in which female and male rural and peri-urban peasant farmers and female urban poor, in northern Haiti, achieve food security. In so doing, I offer an alternative to the dominant narrative of food security, in Haiti, produced by institutional actors. Employing mixed-methods and feminist methodology, I conducted 526 interviews with 260 respondents, of which 115 were members of four primary rural, peri-urban, and urban community-based organisations (CBOs) that constituted the main interest of the study. These respondents were interviewed before and after a state land grab that dispossessed them from land where they produced and collected food. Four specific objectives combine to achieve the aim of the study. First, the study considers how powerful actors, who create a gender-blind world food economy, rely on gendered roles and responsibilities, paradoxically heightening food insecurity for rural women in Haiti. Second, the study examines how male and female rural and peri-urban peasants in northern Haiti interact in community-based organizations to reproduce themselves as the poto mitan, or centre pole, of local and regional food security. They use state land, and locally defined concepts of moral economy of care, identity, and autonomy, to make critical and strategic contributions to Haiti’s food security and social stability. Third, the study documents how CBOs may act as a form of resistance designed to decolonize peasant identity by placemaking through food production. And finally, the research utilizes Sen’s capabilities (opportunities or freedoms one has) and functionings of value (action to engage an opportunity), an evaluative tool, to establish how all-women organizations in Haiti are able to address strategic gender interests and practical food needs. These findings demonstrate the value of Haiti’s gendered, internally-oriented food economy, and how food security and social stability are established despite living within a retracted food economy. These findings indicate the need to make gender a central organizing and governing principle in food security policy.

feminism, Food insecurity, Food security, Food system, autonomy, capabilities, capability, Caribbean, community based organization, community-based organization, decolonization, development, gender, gender and development, gender-blind, grassroots, geography, Haiti, identity, international, identity formation, local food, Nussbaum, placemaking, poto mitan, peasant, place, power, Sen, space, spirituality, world food economy