Let them eat … dirt?!
Mud supplements diets in impoverished country
By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ
The headline should have been alarming: “Haiti’s poor resort to eating mud as prices rise.” It was a news story by The Associated Press, released on Jan. 29, but it wasn’t news.
“Yes, many people in Haiti eat dirt,” said Miguel Rubén Guante, our missionary to the villages and churches in the Chaine de la Selle mountains. “It is custom of Haitian to eat dirt.
“It is so deep between the Haitian to eat dirt that somebody made an industry to prepare the dirt for sale.”
That’s right, dirt cultivated in the central plateau of Haiti finds its way to markets, where it is purchased for far less than food staples such as rice.
As The Associated Press reported: “With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies.
“Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt … The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.”
The story explains that food prices have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat have risen sharply, and the increasing demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well, according to the AP.
“The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places. The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries.”