School of Indian Cooking

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Haiti

My first memory of Haiti was in the 1974 World Cup. I can still remember a sense of excitement about the fact that this tiny Caribbean nation had made it to the finals. Sadly this achievement, and that of being the first black republic in the Western hemisphere after seeing off their colonial rulers, are probably the only highpoints of Haiti’s 200 years of existence. There’s never been much good news coming from Haiti. In more recent times, just when it was really bad, it suddenly got truly tragic.

Earthquakes are phenomena of the Earth’s crustal margins. Marginal is the existence that millions of Haitians have been forced to endure for far too many decades. The country needs cash, so with that in mind I joined forces with Jamie Oliver’s company to raise money for Haitians with a charity lunch.  A menu of onions bhajis, special rice, aubergine curry, potato curry and spinach daal was prepared with the help of 4 volunteers in just 3 hours, feeding about 70 people and raising over £400, with J.O. doubling the total. Sadly no matter what kind of new infrastructure the capital Port au Prince gets the reality for the vast majority of Haitians is one of poverty – ¾ of the population are considered ‘poor’ i.e. existing on around $2 a day while half of them are ‘extremely poor’ existing on less than $1 dollar a day.

The food riots of just a few years ago give an inkling of the stresses the poorest face from man made actions leave alone earthquakes. Recent policy on subsidies and biofuels had a disastrous effect on Haitians.  Speaking at the World Food Day summit in 2008, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that prices on some food items are "500 percent higher than normal" in Haiti. Chuck in the fact that the landscape of Haiti is heavily deforested and suffers from poor soil quality, for people fleeing Port Au Prince for the countryside, it’s like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.