Farming and Foreign Aid in Haiti

Last fall, over 20 film directors participated in the short film initiative “WE THE ECONOMY,” a series of bite-sized looks at common but important questions people have about economics. 


One of these films, The Foreign Aid Paradox, created by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, took on the subject of how the United States provides humanitarian aid to other countries.  Grady and Ewing’s film highlights the example of Haiti, which between January, 2010, when the country experienced a massive earthquake, and September, 2014 had received over $3 billion in aid from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) alone.


Grady and Ewing interview Haitian farmers who express a desire for aid that includes capacity building, like improved farming tools, rather than the current model, which Haitian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Michel Chancy calls the “dumping” of surplus US food commodities into Haiti.  Although the effects of the 2010 earthquake have threatened Haiti’s food security, the food aid the country has received is only a short-term solution to hunger.  


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cites damaged and overworked irrigation systems and lost supplies of seed as major causes of Haiti’s current food insecurity.  To not only rebuild but develop its agricultural capacities beyond pre-earthquake levels, Haiti needs access to knowledge and technology.  Fortunately, the nation already has that access through the public domain patent repositories of the Global Innovation Commons (GIC).  


The GIC has identified over 2,500 patents related to Irrigation technologies that have no legal protection in Haiti.  Over 250 patents covering technologies for Erosion Control and Management, a major concern in Haiti, have no legal protection there.  Additionally, the patent portfolios of multinational agriculture firms contain many assets related to seed with desirable traits, including flood resistance.  For example, Monsanto holds over 420 patents without protection in Haiti on submergence resistance genes for plants including corn, an important food crop in Haiti.


Follow these links to view the complete GIC sets by country for technologies related to:


Irrigation –


Erosion Control –


Erosion Management –




Grady, Rachel and Heidi Ewing. The Foreign Aid Paradox.WE THE ECONOMY.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. “Haiti earthquake 2010.” FAO in emergencies.

United States Agency for International Development. “Fact Sheet: U.S. Assistant to Haiti Overview for 2010-2015.”

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