Even before an earthquake, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, ripped through the country in 2010, Haiti was in a protracted crisis. One of the poorest and least developed countries in the western hemisphere, it is prone to natural disasters – from seasonal hurricanes and tropical storms to flooding and drought. Back-to-back emergencies have made it difficult for many Haitians to rebound. About 3.8 million people – more than a third of the country – do not get enough to eat, and food in the markets is expensive. FAO is working to help Haitians produce more food, earn more money and become more resilient in the face of the next disaster.
More than two-thirds of Haitians earn their living from agriculture, but when a disaster strikes, it can wipe out a household’s means to make a living. FAO, in agreement with its donors, redirected all ongoing emergency and rehabilitation work to help families affected by the earthquake resume crop and livestock production as soon as possible. It provided high-yielding seeds and planting materials, tools and veterinary care as well as training on improved agronomic techniques, animal husbandry and disaster preparedness.
FAO is now supporting small seed growers’ associations in Haiti to produce maize and bean seed. This not only provides additional income, but ensures a steady supply of quality seed to the country’s farmers. FAO is also working to ensure that women – the main producers of food in Haiti – have equal access to agricultural inputs, training and services.
Managing natural resources
Once blanketed with trees, Haiti now has less than two percent of its original forest cover. With such massive deforestation comes soil infertility, erosion and the removal of natural hurricane barriers. Many of the country’s watersheds – a source of water for households and crops, and a buffer against flooding – are in disrepair. FAO is supporting efforts to improve the management of the country’s natural resources, from reforesting watersheds to building water storage facilities to training local farmers on the sustainable use of water and land.
Growing food in cities
Food insecurity is high in Haiti’s rural areas, but it is also a concern in the country’s capital, especially among displaced households. FAO is supporting gardening, recycling and composting activities in urban areas combined with training in nutrition, food preservation and marketing. Market gardens are ideal for city dwellers as they can be set up in small spaces – on rooftops or in small courtyards – with available materials such as wooden tables, used tires or plastic containers. They not only provide families with fresh produce, rich in vitamins and minerals, but also a source of income.