With the spring planting season nearing in earthquake-stricken Haiti, an emergency effort to raise money for Haitian farmers to buy seeds is under way now through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP).

Corn and beans are typically planted in March when the spring rains begin on the island nation.

PHP will release monies to FONDAMA, a national coalition of peasant farmers and rural organizations. The group partners with several U.S. congregations and individuals through PHP’s Joining Hands’ program, which advocates on issues determined by the farmers themselves.

With the influx of displaced people to Haiti’s countryside, local food systems will be taxed to feed the increasing numbers of people who are leaving cities demolished by the January earthquake.

Rebuilding in Haiti will take years, disaster relief officials say.

“These organizations have determined that the priority is to increase food production in order to respond to the surge of displaced people,” says Lionel Derenoncourt, PHP’s coordinator of the Joining Hands Program. “The rainy season has begun, and, with it, the time for planting has come.

“Corn and bean seeds are desperately needed to offset the reserve that has already been consumed by overtaxed rural communities.”

The Haitian growing cycle is 90 days. By planting now, FONDAMA says, crops will be ready the end of June, adding that it needs 400 tons of seeds for distribution to 30,000 farmers nationwide to meet the demand. The local cost for such an effort is estimated at roughly $1 million.

“We are urging Presbyterians to assist our partners as much as possible in this time,” Derenoncourt said.

PHP is immediately releasing $30,000 toward the purchase of seeds in areas where the need is greatest.

Donations to the seed fund may be made through local church channels; by calling PresbyTel at (800) 872-3283; online; or by direct mail to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Individual Remittance Processing, PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Specify “PHP Account Number H000014” on all contributions.

Information for this story furnished by Presbyterian Hunger Program, Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries, General Assembly Mission Council.