US Congress is on the verge of rejecting a money-saving proposal that would deliver US food aid to more people and boost foreign farmers in the process.

Sacks of American rice for sale at a Port-au-Prince market. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The idea that the delivery of American food aid needs an overhaul goes almost without question here in the capital of a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake of four years ago.

Farmers in Haiti and many of their counterparts in the United States are joining foreign aid organizations calling on the United States to stop sending American crops to Haiti through what many critics say is the deeply flawed and wasteful strategy of the current, multi-billion-dollar US Department of Agriculture Food for Peace program.

“Unfortunately US policy doesn’t consider first the political interests of farmers abroad, but of its own,” said Camille Chalmers, director of a Haitian farmers’ association.

“But now there is a chance to change that,” he added.
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Pediatricians in residence Dr. Roosler Billy Telcide, 27 (right), and Dr. Ben Bechir Beaubrun, sit in the children’s waiting room at the Partners in Health University Hospital in Mirebalais. Telcide said he’s excited to learn first rate patient care at the new facility– and to carry those standards with him as he practices medicine to his hometown once he completes his residency. /Jacob Kushner

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MIREBALAIS, Haiti — When Roosler Billy Telcide completed medical school in Port-au-Prince, his hopes for finding a residency to prepare him for a career as a pediatrician were modest.

“I had a dream when I was a medical student to do my residency where I can find a scanner, an MRI, and all those things Partners in Health has,” said Telcide, 27, in reference to Boston non-profit whose state-of-the-art teaching hospital opened last year in the town of Mirebalais, north of Port-au-Prince.

Funded by private donors and grants, and using equipment donated from the Boston area, the $25-million, 300-bed University Hospital of Mirebalais (HUM) already handles some 800 outpatient visits a day, offers chemotherapy to cancer patients, delivers 200 to 300 babies per month and operates a 24-hour emergency ward. Its mission: provide free, first-rate health care to Haitians who could otherwise not afford it.
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Fair Trade and other certifications have led to better wages and benefits at some flower farms, but progress is inconsistent.

An employee at Simbi Roses in Thika, Kenya, trims and weeds beds of flowers in a greenhouse. Workers here are now given safety gloves and thorough training, but a recent report revealed workers in some of Kenya’s flower farms still suffer from chemical burns and other injuries on the job. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

THIKA, Kenya — On a bright Tuesday morning in central Kenya, Mark Chirchir paces up and down rows of red and yellow roses. He watches over workers as they seed, plant and water the rose bushes, then clip the stems, strip them of their leaves and bunch them into bouquets for export to Europe and the United States. Production surges around Valentine’s Day and Christmas.

An environmental specialist at the mid-sized flower farm Simbi Roses, Chirchir, 37, remembers an era when workers would sustain injuries on the job — rashes or even eye burns from the spraying of chemical pesticides.

“In the past we used to use very toxic chemicals, but with time we are phasing those out and replacing them with soft chemicals and biological organisms to feed on pests,” he said.

This is one of many improvements in worker protections here in Kenya’s blossoming horticulture sector. Kenya is the world’s fourth largest exporter of cut flowers, employing approximately 100,000 people whose wages directly support an estimated half-million more of their family members.

But not all flower companies here have followed Simbi Roses’ lead by paying workers higher wages, offering more benefits and taking steps to ensure worker safety.

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From a society split between Muslims and Christians comes a model for peaceful political change.

Maria Kashonda pages through her copy of the proposed constitution she helped draft as a member of the Constitutional Review Commission. She says People are putting aside their religious differences to fight for guarantees of rights like education and health, which she says are universal. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania – Political divisions in this East African nation are so profound that to achieve some sort of unity may, paradoxically, require dividing the country even further—into as many as three governments within a single state.

That’s the proposal put forth by a group of politicians drafting a new constitution intended to usher in prosperity for all Tanzania’s people, urban and rural, rich and poor. That task appears even more daunting given that Tanzanians are further divided by religion, split between Christians and Muslims and those who are animist or practice local religions.

And yet the one thing nearly everyone in Tanzania agrees on is that religion should have little or nothing to do with the constitutional process.

“Wherever you are, you want good education, health services—these things are universal,” said Maria Kashonda, member of the Constitutional Review Commission. “People are putting aside their religious differences for these.”

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