(May 20, 2008; New York) In response to the global food crisis, where rising costs has crippled developing countries and caused rioting amongst the world’s poor, artist-activist Wyclef Jean and leading poverty expert Dr. Jeffrey Sachs announced their joint partnership “Together for Haiti”— an alliance between Yéle Haiti, World Food Programme (WFP) and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

Last April, Haiti caught the attention of global leaders when news of rising food price protests turned violent. Six people died in the riots. Calm was restored to the island when Haiti’s President, Rene Preval, finally announced to protestors that foreign aid would be arriving.

“The rioting was going on in different parts of the world, but in the case of Haiti they took it to another level when they started looting, burning and people started dying,” says Jean, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti. “Haitians were doing that because they felt that they were the only ones suffering. But after I took a trip to India, [who’s also affected and] where I saw people sleeping in airports and on highways, I came back to Haiti and said we’re not the only ones suffering.”

Together for Haiti was formed as an immediate action to support the Caribbean island, which is often cited as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

“As you know there’s a worldwide food crisis on top of a chronic poverty crisis in Haiti, the worldwide food crisis has lead to destabilization around the world,” says Sachs at Together for Haiti’s launch in New York City on Tuesday. “There’s a shortage of food. Grain prices have tripled, so that food importing to scarce regions like Haiti, Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Mozambique, Bangladesh—all over the world are suffering to an extraordinarily acute degree.”

Together for Haiti’s core initiatives include, creating “sustainable solutions,” through the following programs: targeted food distribution, immediate employment creation, micro-enterprise grants, and seed, fertilizer, and training for small-scale farmers.

Jean continues, “We’ve been struck by it hard because we’re the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. I want to be clear with the press. This is not an initiative to say, ‘Please bring more food to us, we’re in aid’ because if you keep giving me you’re just going to keep crippling my economy. This initiative is to say, ‘How can we work together?’”

Jean and Sachs, as well as leaders from the WFP and PADF, continued stressing Together for Haiti’s goal was not to give handouts but to empower the country’s farmers to produce their own food.

“My grandfather was a farmer, so I’m speaking first hand. Right now the farmers are suffering in Haiti right now. You can’t have a future without starting from the ground on up,” says Jean. “A country can’t move forward if you have bad soil. We have a population of farmers who want to work, but there’s no proper equipment or proper training. Haiti could be a great export country.”

To learn more about Together for Haiti and how you can contribute, visit TogetherforHaiti.org.

Photo Credit: Startraks Photo