31 March 2010, Rome – FAO has distributed seeds and tool kits to 68 000 farming families in the earthquake zones of Haiti, the first step in the agency’s response to the catastrophe that hit the Caribbean nation.
Another $5 million worth of essential inputs for rural families will be distributed by the end of June. FAO plans to give farmers 1 500 tonnes of food crop seeds, two tonnes of vegetable seeds, 100 000 banana plants, two million yam cuttings, one thousand tonnes of fertilizer and 95 000 tools.
The first round of blanket distributions target farming families in Haiti’s South and South-West departments that were directly affected by the 12 January earthquake. The farmers received, or will receive over the next few days, essential kits of grain, pulse and vegetable seeds and tools.
A further 40 000 beneficiary households have been targeted by FAO in the Artibonite, Haiti’s agricultural heartland, now playing host to tens of thousands of displaced families from Port-au-Prince who have put enormous strain on local resources, especially food.
Around sixty percent of the displaced households are headed by women and many of them would like to resume agricultural production and engage in small trading activities. FAO is planning to target another 50 000 households in the rest of Haiti for the summer season.
Donors to the rescue
Haiti’s port was destroyed in the quake, making imports complicated and expensive as they would have to come by air. A tight seed market in Hispaniola, the island that includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic, limited the amount of inputs that could be procured.
Brazil, Belgium, the Central Emergency Response Fund, the Clinton Foundation, the Emergency Response Relief Fund, Finland, Ireland, the European Commission, IFAD and Spain have reallocated funds from FAO’s pre-earthquake programme to respond to the new crisis.
“We have obtained inputs to shore up the spring planting season — which began this month — in the most affected areas, but the needs country-wide are not yet met,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation, José Maria Sumpsi.
“We achieved this partly because of the generous and practical support of donors. Brazil for example made an in kind donation of suitable foundation seeds that can be further multiplied in country, which helped speed up the seed supply chain.”
Brazil is also amongst the largest cash donors to FAO’s Haiti relief effort, contributing $2.3 million. The spring planting season accounts for around 60 percent of the country's annual production, and the aim of the distributions is to help farmers grow food so less food aid will be required.
The Agriculture Cluster, involving 121 non-governmental organizations and international organizations involved in agriculture and coordinated by FAO, is planning to distribute 2 200 tonnes of pulses, 3 450 tonnes of cereal seeds, 30 million root and tuber units and 7.5 tonnes of vegetable seeds by the end of the year, if funds are available.
This covers 25 percent of the essential farming inputs the Government of Haiti believes is required nationwide to give a boost to food production in Haiti.
Staying power for displaced families
“It is important not only to increase domestic food production but also to give hope to local and displaced families so that they remain in the rural areas, as the Government of Haiti would like, and do not return to Port-au-Prince, ” said Sumpsi.
For this reason we hope donors will, over the next weeks and months, increase support to the agricultural sector,” he added.
Over the next three years FAO plans to promote and support widespread micro-garden projects for the earthquake displaced, reforestation and the stabilisation of watersheds to prevent further erosion and landslides, improvements and repairs of irrigation systems and feeder roads, support to rural markets and livestock and fishery rehabilitation.
The agency hopes to receive more funds to contribute to these important needs. FAO has to date received $13.5 million in funding for farming in Haiti, just 30 percent of the $45 million it requested for immediate needs.