Graziano da Silva pledged FAO's support to Haiti through interventions that address both immediate crisis situations and the root causes of the island nation's food insecurity and poverty.
The objective, he said, is "to make Haitians, especially farmers, more resilient to climate and other challenges. But there is only one way to achieve this," he stressed through investment "If we don't invest today, we will pay the price tomorrow," the FAO head said.
FAO and the government of Haiti are seeking $74 million over the next 12 months to help rehabilitate the country's agricultural sector in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Tropical Storm Isaac, and a drought that occurred earlier this year. Together, they caused colossal damage to Haiti's agriculture and fisheries; as of October, two million Haitians were facing food and nutrition insecurity.
President Martelly said that during his one-to-one meeting with Graziano da Silva at FAO headquarters he expressed his thanks to FAO for the Organization's "great work" in his country. "It's a success story," he said.
"We have suffered a lot but things are changing," Mr Martelly declared, inviting potential investors and experts to come and see "the new Haiti". No country had ever pulled itself out of poverty through charity alone, he said. Investment was key in Haiti, a country where opportunities abounded both in agriculture and in other sectors, such as energy, he added.
Livelihoods at risk
Laurent Thomas, FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation, noted that "If we don't intervene quickly, over 60 percent of the population deriving their livelihood from agriculture will be put at risk." FAO and the government of Haiti are calling for funds to urgently help small farmers plant crops for next year's harvest. The country's next planting seasons starts in December.
Hurricane Sandy was the third disaster to hit the country in the space of a few months. The combined impact on the agricultural sector, which accounts for 25 per cent of Haiti's GDP and employs up to two thirds of its population, has been estimated at $254 million.
The $74 million sought by Haiti's government and FAO for the agricultural sector would be used to rehabilite irrigation schemes and rural access roads; for the treatment of river banks and gullies and associated watershed management activities, including tree planting to prevent flooding; to rehabilite local seed production, provde seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural tools; for livestock vaccination and parasite control; to support to inland fisheries and protect the mangrove trees which shield Haiti's coastline; and undertake capacity development through training in disaster preparedness.
Economic and environmental activities combined
Out of the $74 million called for, FAO has so far secured $2.7 million, with indications of a further $5-6 million that are in the pipeline from different donors. FAO will implement both short- and medium term projects in response to the current crisis, ranging from immediate relief activities to interventions that have a longer-term economic and environmental impact. Combining both economic and environmental activities will be key.
FAO, in collaboration with Haiti's government, has been running interventions worth some $10 million dollars this year, including:
- assistance to farmers to resume crop and livestock production by providing high-yielding seeds and planting materials, tools and veterinary care, as well as training on improved agronomic techniques, animal husbandry and disaster preparedness; -
- supporting small seed growers' associations in producing quality maize and bean seeds;
- reforestation, watershed improvement , building water storage facilities and training farmers in the sustainable use of land and water;
- urban agriculture projects providing city dwellers with fresh, affordable food. Vegetables can be grown in used tyres, or on trays or plastic containers which can be set up in small spaces on rooftops or in small courtyards.
FAO has also assisted the government of Haiti in the preparation of its Agricultural Development Policy (2010-2025), a National Plan for Agricultural Investment (2010-2015) and a National Plan for Food and Nutritional Security (2010-2015).