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Tools of recovery in Haiti

FAO clears blocked irrigation canals in earthquake-hit Léogâne

Photo: ©FAO/Javier Escobedo
Quake debris blocks irrigation canals south of Léogâne.
Rome, Port-au-Prince, 8 February 2010 – FAO has started an emergency support scheme for 600 people to quickly clear irrigation canals in and around the epicentre of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti to save bean and maize crops.

The United Nations agency is providing a small payment for each worker and 600 pieces of hand tools for the task that will remain the property of farmer’s organisations in the rural areas near Léogâne.

An early FAO assessment in the agricultural area around the Haitian farming town that was almost completely destroyed found that earthquake debris and subsequent landslides had blocked canals threatening crops that were just weeks away from being ready to harvest.

Further assessment found that in some places there had been substantial damage to vital infrastructure such as canals and feeder roads. An estimated 80 percent of the buildings in Leogane have been destroyed.

"For the farmers around Léogâne the earthquake could not have come at a worse time," said Alex Jones, FAO Emergency Coordinator in Haiti. "Damage to irrigation works threatens their current crops not yet harvested, while breakdowns in the supply of seed and fertilizer inputs may limit planting in the main spring agricultural season."

40 teams on the job

Approximately 40 teams of 15 people each have now started working in three locations. FAO has also provided financial support, technical assistance and mobilized a Canadian Army backhoe, a piece of heavy earth moving equipment, for some of the bigger work that can not be done by human labour.
 
The activity should go on for about a week. Haiti’s agricultural sector also took a hit from the partial destruction of the agricultural ministry building in Port-au-Prince as well as laboratories and store houses, and casualties amoung ministry staff.

As of 15 February, a small team of FAO experts will start working on a full and accurate assessment of the damages, needs and plans for agriculture and food security rehabilitation that will feed into the larger Post Disaster Needs Assessment UN and NGO coordinated process.

Overall, FAO is also working to secure funding to help poor Haitian farmers make the spring planting season which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s national harvest.