Food distribution in Jacmel, Haiti. Credit: Oxfam
Distributing local food helps Haitian farmers

Haiti: Oxfam supports agricultural production

“When we live in these conditions, we are ready to accept everything that is offered to us. But it is better to be given things that are produced locally.”
Monrocher Antoine

Monrocher Antoine was pleasantly surprised to find local agricultural products in the food kit he had received. Actually, 10,000 of these kits are distributed to residents of many cities of the country. Oxfam favors this approach in order to encourage local production, which is key to the revitalization of the economy.

Monrocher Antoine, 77 years of age, lives in a rural area of Jacmel called Zoranger. His wife, their eight children and he are among the 3.5 million victims registered with the office of the Haitian Civil Protection following the January 12 earthquake, which had destroyed their home.

Buying local

Monrocher was in the social center Lakonbit of Jacmel near the nursing school of Notre Dame University in order to participate in a dry food distribution organized by MIDADE. It was his very first, two months after the earthquake.

A beneficiary of an Oxfam food distribution in Jacmel, Haiti

A beneficiary of an Oxfam food distribution in Jacmel, Haiti. Credit: Oxfam

“When we live in these conditions, we are ready to accept everything that is offered to us. But it is better to be given things that are produced locally,” states the elderly man carrying his straw hat in his left hand while looking at the yam in the kit.

Since the earthquake, food assistance has been given to the victims from everywhere. Although it has provided some relief to a great number of people, it has nonetheless an adverse effect on the Haitian economy as a whole and on the farmers in particular. The latter produce only foodstuffs that can be used locally and lack the technical and economic means to conserve their commodities for a long time.

Towards efficient and sustainable agriculture

This is why Oxfam is committed to buying the commodities of the farmers in order to re-distribute them to others living especially in the rural areas affected by the quake. “Before the quake, I used to live on agriculture, but the harvesting season was no good. Now, I depend on others for my sustenance,” relates the peasant whose eyes were fixed upon the bottom of the yard.

This sentence sums up the tragedy of the peasants who have to rely on mild weather at each season. Worse yet, they use inefficient, traditional, often archaic procedures to harvest their crops. “When you use seeds of bad quality, the harvest can’t be good. A selection process or even a treatment process is necessary if you do not want your return to go from bad to worse,” comments Philippe Mathieu, agronomist at Oxfam Quebec’s Haiti office.

Oxfam has been cooperating with other agencies to support a project to make Haitian farmers less vulnerable. The project intends to allow 40,000 farmers and their families in the six departments affected to reinforce food security in the country and to improve their financial situation in a sustainable manner.

Providing quality agricultural inputs

To strengthen their productions, these farmers are given agricultural tool kits, which have each a hoe, a pruning knife, a pick, a machete, and a pick handle. Also, they receive a technical agricultural training in the rearing of small herds of goats and poultry in close contact with MARNDR and other NGOs like IICA and VETERIMED. Finally, they are given seeds, chemical and organic fertilizer made from compost and manure.

“SUCO hires an agronomist whose job it is to coordinate the project of the distribution of agricultural inputs, which is indispensable for the good functioning of different agricultural campaigns (technical support, coordination with farmers’ associations, among others),” explains the person in charge of SUCO, an organization working in agriculture and an Oxfam partner on the Haiti project.

Thus, using the expertise of its local partners such as SUCO, CARE and PCH and projects such as PADELAN, PROBINA and PADL-SMA, Oxfam provides the farmers with quality agricultural inputs and animal husbandry. It also intervenes in the clearing and rehabilitation of irrigation systems. Therefore, there will be sufficient production to meet the nutritional needs of 200,000 people and to yield financial benefits to the farmers.

A more serene future

The first drafts of the program have enabled Oxfam to buy from the peasants at market price:

  • 78 tons of TCS rice;
  • 26.86 tons of black beans;
  • 54.48 tons of ground corn;
  • 239 bags of yams;
  • 404.5 dozens of bananas;
  • 246 bags of cassava;
  • 9,700 packets of cassava bread;
  • 10,366 jars of peanut butter.

“This helps to inject money quickly into the rural area which is currently under pressure by the displaced populations from the city to the countryside,” adds the representative of Oxfam Quebec in Haiti.

This program allows 40,000 farmers to see the future with more serenity. “An agronomist paid me a visit last week. He asked me to prepare a plot of land for which he will give me some inputs at the beginning of the rainy season. Once the harvest is ready, I can sell it and…,” relates the old man, smiling.

Read more

Read the story: Haiti: Financing community canteens

Download the report: Haiti: A Once-in-a-Century Chance for Change

Watch the video: Rebuilding Haiti: Haitians say jobs are key to recovery

Explore the map: Oxfam's response to the Haiti earthquake

In detail: What Oxfam is doing in Haiti