Haiti at crossroads
FAO asks for US$14 million to support agriculture
18 December 2006, Rome – After several years of social and political unrest aggravated by recurrent hurricanes, floods, droughts and other natural disasters which hampered its development, Haiti is at a crossroads. Recent democratic elections and the stabilization process backed by the international community today create an environment conducive to recovery.
To help the island reverse the trend, FAO needs some US$14 million for the early recovery of the agriculture based livelihoods. This amount is part of a US$97.9 million UN Transitional Appeal 2006-2007 in Support to Stabilization in Haiti launched today which targets priority humanitarian and socio-economic needs.
The UN appeal also aims, in collaboration with national institutions and nongovernmental organizations, at reducing vulnerability among the population and ensuring better preparation for natural disasters.
“FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Programme will provide its technical assistance to boost agriculture recovery and resilience,” explains FAO expert Fernanda Guerrieri.
“FAO spent some US$5.7 million on emergency and rehabilitation activities over the period 2004-2006. Our activities will continue in five major areas: distribution of seeds, tools and fertilizers; vegetable production in urban areas; animal vaccination; rehabilitation of small infrastructure such as water tanks, irrigation systems, and weirs; riverbank protection; and disaster management and mitigation, including soil protection and seed stocks,” indicates Ms Guerrieri.
One of the world’s poorest countries
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of some 8 million people – two thirds of whom live in rural areas. Over 75% of the population lives below the poverty line of US$2 per day per person.
The population growth rate is 2.5 percent a year and the average life expectancy is 55 years. Infant mortality is 80 per 1 000. The unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent.
Haiti faces a severe deforestation problem. In 1923 forests covered nearly 60 percent of the country. Today they only cover between 2 and 3 percent. Most Haitians still depend on wood and charcoal as their primary fuel source. Deforestation also leads to soil erosion which decreases agricultural yields and results in deadly landslides.
In addition, Haiti has been hit repeatedly by natural disasters in recent years. The almost total lack of tree cover means that not only hurricanes, but also tropical storms and heavy rains have devastating effects, causing significant loss of life and heavy damage.
In September 2004, hurricane Jeanne killed 3 000 people. Earlier this year, hurricane Ernesto provoked heavy losses in agricultural production totalling more than US$5 million. And last month, floods caused severe damage to the agriculture sector, adversely affecting thousands of subsistence farmers.
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