Helping Haiti’s most vulnerable communities rebuild their livelihoods
On 12 January 2010, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti leading to massive loss of life and causing unprecedented damage to urban and rural areas in the south and west of the country.
Over half of the country’s population lives in rural areas – between five and six million people – and the majority of these practice some form of farming or agricultural production. The agriculture sector is by far Haiti’s biggest employer, accounting for about 26 percent of the country’s economic output. Although the earthquake was by and large an urban tragedy, its impact resounded throughout the country, severely disrupting economic infrastructure in rural areas.
Haiti is prone to natural disasters, being regularly hit by hurricanes and tropical storms, which compound the extremely high levels of poverty in the country. Over the last 15 years, Haiti has faced 15 disasters. Even before the earthquake, the country was in a state of protracted crisis, with undernourishment affecting over half the population.
Over the past year, the country has faced three emergencies simultaneously: the aftermath of the earthquake; a cholera outbreak; and Hurricane Tomas on 5 November 2010. While the hurricane’s impact was less than originally foreseen, flooding and landslides created additional humanitarian needs across the country.
FAO Emergency Response
Immediately after the earthquake –on 15 January – the UN and its partners launched a Flash Appeal to rapidly respond to the devastation in Haiti. The appeal was revised in February and later on in July, to an amount of USD 1.4 billion, of which the agriculture sector accounted for USD 58.8 million.
FAO appealed for USD 32.5 million and, as of today (April 2011) has received USD 24.5 million
In response to the earthquake, FAO has helped affected rural people to rebuild their livelihoods and supporting the integration and resettlement of displaced populations. This has involved emergency food security interventions, particularly focused on distributing inputs for the spring, summer and winter planting seasons; carrying out assessments of the food security situation; coordinating agricultural interventions; and supporting national food security data management.
At present, FAO has over 20 international experts and more than 120 national technical and officers and personnel currently working through its Emergency Rehabilitation and Coordination Unit offices, which are spread throughout the country.
FAO has led the Agriculture Cluster since the earthquake, coordinating the activities of more than 200 organizations and institutions that participate in the Cluster. The Cluster has also facilitated the process of bringing national and international NGOs in line with the Ministry and the Table Sectorielle in all technical and planning matters.
Furthermore, FAO has assisted the National Food Security Coordination to re-establish its agriculture and food security information network following the major damage caused by the earthquake.
Food security and input distribution
After the earthquake FAO and WFP carried out a Crop and Food Security Assessment, which highlighted a fall in the production of cereals (by 9 percent), pulses (by 20 percent), root crops (by 12 percent) and plantain (by 14 percent) in 2010. The overall the food situation in Haiti improved between January and June 2010 thanks to food assistance, the resumption of agricultural activities helped by the distribution of seeds and tools, access to cash or food through cash- or food-for-work activities, and the recovery of the agricultural and non-agricultural food trade.
Given the damage caused by the 12 January earthquake and owing to its proximity to the most important planting season of the year in Haiti (which provides 60 percent of the available food in the country), FAO adopted a blanket distribution strategy in the directly affected areas in Ouest and Sud-Est departments.
Throughout all planting seasons in 2010, FAO and the Agriculture Cluster partners, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, have reached 560 000 households (approximately three million beneficiaries) throughout the country, both in rural and urban areas through seeds, tools and fertilizers distribution. FAO alone managed to assist 390 000 farming families (approximately 1.9 million beneficiaries) located in earthquake affected zones with the distribution of 1 254 tonnes of légumiseuses, 970 tonnes of cereals (maize and sorghum), 8.4 million roots and tubers for starch crop planting, 100 000 banana plants, 15.5 tonnes of vegetable seeds, 677 517 agricultural tools, 9 345 tonnes of fertilizer and 170 tonnes of compost. In addition, 17 000 households were supported through FAO’s urban agriculture interventions in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Gressier, Fonds-Parisien, Croix-des-Bouquettes and Léogâne. In these areas FAO has delivered 100 water pumps, 1 000 tonnes of fertilizers and almost 9 600 kg of vegetable seeds.
FAO is currently shifting from direct input distribution to seed multiplication and other more sustainable and transition-oriented activities. In this regard, FAO is providing support to small farmer associations, “Groupements de Production Artisanale de Semences” (GPAS), in maize and bean seed production to ensure the supply of quality seeds to small farmers, and at the same time help GPAS to develop economically viable and sustainable enterprises.
Moreover, FAO is contributing to the global strategy of reduction of malnutrition and mortality in Haiti through the improvement of nutritious food production capacity and education to nutrition of the most vulnerable populations, providing technical support in the setting up of vegetable gardens and through communication campaigns on correct nutritional practices.
Hurricane season & cholera outbreak
After the earthquake, FAO developed a Contingency Plan for the 2010 Hurricane Season to enhance the Government’s emergency response to the impact of hurricanes in the agricultural sector. The plan focused on two main outputs: 1) the establishment of a communication and coordination network among all partners in the agriculture sector; and 2) the storage of 300 tonnes of beans and maize seeds along with over 80 000 tools in four strategic locations around the country. This strategy ensured appropriate coordination between partners on the response to hurricane Tomas and allowed FAO to support affected households in remote areas.
According to the assessment of damages on the agricultural sector done after Hurrican Tomas, Grand Anse, Nippe, Sud, Sud Est, Ouest (Leogane – Petit Goave) and North Ouest departments experienced significant losses. FAO’s response started immediately after the hurricane and included direct support to affected rural households, distribution of seeds and tools. FAO’s team in the Country is currently undertaking similar activities in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season (July to November).