09 February, 2008

Weekend Musings: Eating Dirt!

Location: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
It is lunch time in Haiti’s slums. You can see round swirls of dough which are arranged in rows and columns, baked in the hot sun. From distance they might look quite appetizing to you. As you move closer to the spot you'll suddenly realise your appetite has died down when you learn the ingredients used to make these cookies. These cookies are made of butter, salt, water and one main ingredient. No, the main ingredient used is not flour but clay/dirt!!! Sometimes crumbled foil-wrapped cube of bouillon are added into the mixture, which they stir, shape into discs the size of a saucer and leave to bake in the Caribbean sun. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies by eating these clay cookies.

Yolen Jeunky, 45, collects dried mud cookies to sell in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince.
Img Source: MSNBC

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. More than 76% of the Haiti population lives on less than $2.25 a day. Each and every day the number of people eating these mud biscuits for survival is increasing at a steady pace. To make these mud cookies the mud, which comes from Haiti's central plateau region, is first strained and then shaped into biscuits which are then left in the sun to bake.

It is not just recently that these pale brown biscuits known by locals as "terre", have been consumed by the local people. Before the food price hiked in Carribean countries, these mud cookies have traditionally been eaten by pregnant Haitians and children as an antacid and source of calcium. But in recent years, many Haitians unable to afford even a plate of rice, ‘terre’ has become their staple diet. A reporter who sampled these cookies found it had smooth consistency and they suck out the moisture from the mouth when they touch the tongue, leaving unpleasant earthy aftertaste that lingers for hours.

"The Food and Agriculture Organisation recently declared a state of emergency in Haiti. According to the U.N. agency, food prices have gone up by almost 40 per cent in the wake of floods and crop damage caused by hurricanes."

Also food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices which is needed for transportation, fertilizers and irrigation. Even prices for basic ingredients like corn and wheat are also sharply risen which in turn is pressuring global food market.

At Caribbean countries, this hike in food price is clearly visible as these island nations depend on imports. At the markets in Haiti’s slum, two cups of rice is being sold at the price of 60 US cent, already hiked by 10 cents since December and 50% from a year ago. Other staples like beans, milk and fruit have shot up at a similar rate and shockingly even the price of the clay used in making these mud cookies has increased! Dirt to make these mud cookies now costs $5 and these cookies are sold at about 5 cents a piece which is a bargain for many Haitians when compared with staples.

In a world where the rich spend millions on ways to avoid carbohydrates and calories, where obesity is declared as a global health treat, we are still unaware of these people who struggle each day just to get enough calories to survive. Next time, when you are about to throw food in waste bin, please think of these ‘dirt-eating’ people.

More Reads: Mud biscuits in Haiti


  1. oh my... that really left me with a lump in my throat. Though these are some values we are brought up with, its good to remind ourselves of these things now and then. That pic was truly disturbing..

    Thanks for sharing, Sia.

  2. Sup!! a great eye opener!!
    Gosh things u take for granted and then you see people who really struggle to put soemthing in their mouth atleast once a day!!
    Its heartbreaking

  3. I have seen people in some African nation literally plucking grass and boiling them in water to eat! That's why I get upset when people say "don't use Canola oil, don't use plain flour, it's bad for you"!! I think "HUH?!" We are all lucky we have a choice, some in the World don't have any!!
    Even in US, there are kids who go to school hungry, all counties provide free or reduced lunches for families who can't afford the regular price school lunches.It's a great programme but isn't that sad? You think it wouldn't happen in a country like US, but it does!!

  4. Read this in the newspaper the other day too. Really sad to see how we tend to take small things for granted. Glad you shared it Sia. Together we can change the world bit by bit!

  5. I saw this one in discovery. Poor people. The doctors there were warning the pregnant women not to have this, but they seem to not care about the warning.

    Well said Sia, whenever we have leftovers, before trashing them, we definitely think of these dirt eating people.

  6. Shame on man kind, we live in a society where we care if there is a something in return that we can expect. Truly heartbreaking.I feel bad that there is nothing I can personally do except feel bad.Wish I had the power to change

  7. thats a pain to see.. thanx for sharing the information.

  8. Such things makes us appreciate every morsel that we put into our mouths.

  9. excellent post!!!very informative!!!

  10. Sia,

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is indeed terrible. I never ever trash food and get very upset when people do...

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this Sups! I feel very passionately about this topic - the wastage of food and the ignorance with which most of us lead our daily lives! Wish we - the richer countries - could do more in some way to help these poor nations!

  12. what is this world coming to!

  13. hmmmmm dont have any words to say

  14. Oh God, everytime I see something like this, the loads of stuff in my kitchen mocks me! Thanks for this, Sia!

  15. Oh my god.. i had no idea! I just don't know what to say...

  16. Sia, in my job I send lots of people to and from Haiti. Folks come up here to work and send their money home -- then they want to get back for holidays, summer etc.

    Even so, this was a real eye-opener for me.

    We all think we have it so rough... look around and see things aren't so bad. This is what I try to tell my kids.


  17. Wow... So many things that go on in the world that lots of us don't even realize. It's amazing the things we take for granted. Having food to eat, a roof over your head, clothes on your back are privileges that most of us overlook! :)

    Reminds me of when my grandmother was here with us. She used to get so mad when my mother would throw any excess food because so many people back in India were starving for food. I've seen it on our India trips too. There really is another side to this world.

    Thanks for reminding us to be thankful for all we have, Sia. :)

  18. wE GET UPSET WITH SMALL THINGS, but have never known hunger, never known what it is to go to bed empty stomach. Thanks for reminding us, hope to be able to do some thing, however small it may be.

  19. wE GET UPSET WITH SMALL THINGS, but have never known hunger, never known what it is to go to bed empty stomach. Thanks for reminding us, hope to be able to do some thing, however small it may be.

  20. That was very touching, and i believe we should go forward to help those people by all means possible. I pray my lord that every human being is well fed, content, healthy and happy. And for all those whom god has given things in plenty should learn to share, and thank Almight each moment.



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