Haiti must redouble efforts to boost agriculture; cannot afford to fail

Published: 15th October 2012

With 60 percent of Haitians relying on farming to feed their families, a revitalized sector is absolutely crucial to long-term growth

Plans and programs to improve the Haitian agriculture sector since the 2010 earthquake have been insufficient, says international organization Oxfam in a new report. Efforts by the Haitian government and the international community have fallen short of revitalizing the sector, improving conditions for small-scale local farmers, or recognizing the important role of women in agriculture.

“Despite agriculture in Haiti suffering three decades of crisis and neglect, almost 60 percent of Haitians still rely on farming for their livelihoods,” said Yolette Etienne, Country Director for Oxfam in Haiti. “The government and the international community must put greater emphasis on coherent agricultural policies to revitalize production and create value to help Haitians get back on their feet and improve their living conditions.”

High levels of food insecurity

Oxfam’s new report, Planting Now (2nd Edition): Revitalizing agriculture for reconstruction and development in Haiti, surveyed representatives of the Haitian government, the international community, and local Haitian organizations. Ninety percent of interviewees stressed that agriculture is Haiti’s main production sector, contributing to a quarter of the GDP and creating 60 percent of available jobs. Yet trade and agricultural policies in Haiti have nearly wiped out the sector’s ability to provide stable livelihoods for Haitian farmers, leading to high levels of food insecurity throughout the country.

“We know the current system has major flaws. Short term projects to improve agriculture may seem effective, but they are not sustainable and will not bring vitality back to Haitian farming. The government must prioritize a long-term approach, allowing the Ministry of Agriculture to take the lead to promote local development that takes into consideration priorities of small scales producers,” said Etienne.

After the earthquake of 2010, the Haitian government developed a National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) to coordinate the efforts of different actors working to revitalize agriculture in Haiti. So far, donors have only funded 47 percent of the $790 million promised to implement the NAIP. The need for greater investment, active political leadership, and better coordination among some humanitarian donors and aid organizations, are necessary conditions for the NAIP to fulfill its function as an indispensable instrument for the growth of Haitian agriculture.

Women play a vital role

The plight of women is a good illustration of Haiti’s broken farming system. In rural Haiti, women are the head of nearly 40 percent of households and they are very actives in virtually all aspects of agriculture. They play a key role from production to commercialization of local products in local markets, to consumption, but their role is not valued and they are often victims of pay discrimination. The future sustainability of small-scale farming in Haiti depends on equality between women and men.

“There are many actors who feel they have the right answer for improving agriculture in Haiti. We all have a role to play, and coordination is essential. The most important step is to prioritize the NAIP at all levels and adopt a long-term program approach to sustainable agriculture. The Haitian government, international donors, aid organizations, as well as local farmers must work together to bring Haitian agriculture back to what it is – the most promising sector in Haiti,” said Etienne.

In Haiti, Oxfam aligns its work with the Ministry of Agriculture, local authorities and local communities’ priorities. Oxfam’s agricultural programs, carried out in close collaboration with local partners focus on strengthening the capacity of rice farmers in the Artibonite Valley; improving production and incomes for coffee farmers in the north, northeast, and south departments; developing and diversifying promising sectors; , improving agricultural innovation through technological training, improved irrigation systems, and watershed and soil erosion management; and improving agro-processing and commercialization capacities.

Oxfam works with numerous local partners, namely producers associations, cooperatives, and technical assistance structures. Our work in the agricultural sector is not limited to increases in production or productivity; it includes all aspects of advocacy to guarantee more transparency and accountability of the sector.

Despite agriculture in Haiti suffering three decades of crisis and neglect, almost 60 percent of Haitians still rely on farming for their livelihoods.
Yolette Etienne
Oxfam Country Director, Haiti

Notes to editors

Contact information

For further inquiries, please contact:

Haiti: Pélèg Charles, +509 37 01 49 33 and cpeleg@oxfam.org.uk
US: Maura Hart, +1 202 496 1196, and mhart@oxfamamerica.org