The special programme, drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development gives specific guidelines for international aid in the sector for the next eighteen months. It is one of the cornerstones of the government’s strategy to rebuild the country following the January 12 earthquake.
FAO and the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture Cooperation signed an agreement with the Ministry to support the government’s plan.
FAO is leading the United Nations and NGO partners “cluster” (coordination group) in agriculture.
A meeting was held in the Dominican Republic on January 27 attended by Joanas Gué, the Haitian Minister of Agriculture and his counterpart in the Dominican Republic, Salvador Jimenez and representatives of international aid organisations.
Food situation fragile
“The food situation in Haiti was already very fragile before the earthquake and Haiti was highly dependent on food imports,” said Alexander Jones, FAO Emergencies Response Manager in Haiti.
“With people moving back to the rural areas, growth in Haiti’s agricultural sector is now an urgent priority and the Haitian government’s plan does a very good job of laying down the immediate priorities.”
Almost 60 percent of Haitians lived in rural areas before the earthquake struck. Haiti’s rural areas are desperately poor with 80 percent of the population surviving on the razor-edge of poverty with less than two dollars a day.
The Haitian government estimates in its blueprint around $32 million is needed now to buy urgent seeds, tools and fertilisers for farmers so that they can begin planting in March for the spring planting season which usually accounts for 60 percent of Haiti’s agricultural production.
Other short-term actions envisaged by the plan include the repair of the quake-damaged Darbonne sugar refinery near Léogane, protection of watersheds, reforestation, the rebuilding and reinforcing of collapsed riverbanks and damaged irrigation channels and the rehabilitation of 600 kilometres of feeder roads.
The government has also recommended the acquisition of thousands of tonnes of cereal, pulses and vegetable seeds, produced domestically and abroad, tools and fertilisers and support to the livestock sector for an eighteen month period.
Other priorities include the re-launch of a programme to encourage the planting of nutritious sweet potatoes in all 10 of Haiti’s administrative departments and the building of storage facilities to stock food and grain to prepare the country for the upcoming hurricane season.
FAO will start activities along these priorities with the funds received from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Spain and the agency’s own funds.
In September 2008 the Haitian agricultural sector suffered severe damage from a series of back-to-back tropical storms and hurricanes from which parts of the country still have not recovered.