FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices



Food prices in Haiti rose sharply from August 2007 until September 2008. Though prices of most food – local and imported – have since come down from their extreme highs, they are still out of reach for millions of Haitians.

Some 80 percent of Haitians live below the poverty line. More than 60 percent of Haiti’s nearly 9 million people live in extreme poverty, unable to access sufficient food to eat.

Vulnerability to extreme weather

Haiti each year is battered by the Caribbean’s seasonal hurricanes, which devastate the agricultural sector. Forests cover just two percent of Haiti’s land, leaving it without protection against extreme weather, and subject to soil erosion. Yet two-thirds of Haitians scrape their meagre earnings from agriculture.

Four major storms swept through the country in August and September 2008, destroying half of the crops that were growing at the time, killing more than 800 people and herds of livestock and ravaging the country’s infrastructure.

Around 85 percent of Haiti’s watersheds – a crucial source of water for households and crops, and a buffer against flooding – have fallen into disrepair.

FAO Response

European Union Food Facility

The Government of Haiti has decided to combine food security and watershed management efforts. Funds from the European Union worth €10 million have been channelled to FAO to support the government’s strategy to improve the food security and livelihoods of potentially 300 000 rural households, all of whom live in a large catchment area in the country’s north-eastern province.

The two-year project, launched in May 2009, aims to contribute to the growth and diversification of agriculture, livestock and agro-forestry combined with improved natural resources and water management. At the same time, it seeks to build the capacity of local institutions and people living in the area, helping to strengthen their resilience to natural disasters.

The project involves small-scale rural infrastructure activities including: water storage and management (the building of small dams and rainwater catchments in mountain areas, small-scale irrigation and household rain water tanks); anti-erosion measures; rural roads (about 100 km); and improved grain and seed storage. 

Small-scale infrastructure work will be done through cash-for-work schemes to generate immediate income for local communities.

Agricultural support for farming families in the upper land regions will be combined with training in sound agricultural practices. Attention will be given to the initiation of land use systems that combine forestry, agriculture and livestock breeding. Support is also being given to help develop household vegetable gardens and to scale up agricultural production, including the cultivation of high value crops.

Improved water availability and groundcover for grazing will increase livestock breeding and pasture management.  The project should also help around 6 000 vulnerable families living in coastal areas to develop fisheries and aquaculture activities.

Other FAO activities

FAO initiated a series of emergency programmes in June 2008, and following the season’s hurricanes. Soon thereafter, funding levels more than doubled as Haiti’s situation became more dire. FAO ISFP-related projects include:

  • a Technical Cooperation Programme project worth US$ 498 000, which provided for the emergency provision of Lima beans, cowpea and maize seed to about 70 000 vulnerable people. Though some crops were indeed destroyed during the hurricanes and flooding, delivery of inputs was not yet complete and re-commenced soon after. Farming tools, such as machetes and hoes, were also furnished.
  • funds from the Spanish government were also put toward this emergency response, for a total of US$ 885 000
  • a programme worth more than US$ 2.5 million, supported by the UN-OCHA’s Central Emergency Response Fund. Tools, bean, sorgo and maize seeds, cassava and sweet potato cuttings were supplied to 63 000 vulnerable farming families (more than 250 000 people), as well as irrigation pumps in selected communities.
  • in October of 2008, considering the gravity of Haiti’s situation, FAO began implementing a further response programme to help the poorest farmers through the end of 2009. The project, worth US$ 10.2 million funded by IFAD, will benefit 240 000 smallholder farmers and their families and will supply seeds for beans, vegetables and cereals, as well as sweet potato cuttings and banana plants. The aim is to reconstitute the nation’s seed stock and to build capacities of local farmers’ associations.




Woman eating at post-disaster seed reserve, Les Cayes, Haiti
Woman eating at post-disaster seed reserve, Les Cayes, Haiti