Haiti highlights concerns over food security

Haiti received special attention at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) governing council meeting in Rome on Wednesday, with confirmation of a $3,2-million grant aimed at funding post-earthquake rehabilitation, strengthening food security and creating jobs.

Ifad president Kanayo Nwanze said the agency was exploring modalities for managing Haiti’s debt to Ifad, currently estimated at $58-million and expected to reach $78-million over the life of active loans. At a side meeting with Haitian Agriculture Minister Joanas Gué, Ifad representatives presented a framework to alleviate the country’s outstanding debt to the fund.

“First, we are stepping up work under ongoing projects in Haiti’s rural areas, focusing on food production and activities to generate income and employment,” Nwanze told the conference. “In collaboration with the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations], we have extended our 2008 post-food-crisis programme for the distribution of seeds and farming tools, thereby preparing about 15 000 rural households for the planting season that begins in March”.

He said Ifad’s support to Haiti would be targeted at the areas most severely affected by the earthquake and by the flow of urban migrants to rural areas.

In a meeting with senior Ifad leaders to discuss how Haiti could be assisted, Gué highlighted food security as a huge concern in the aftermath of the earthquake, which hit the Caribbean country last month. Gué expressed Haiti’s desire for more debt relief and presented a plan for his country’s agricultural development.

Displaced people were moving from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to the countryside, creating a situation where rural areas were becoming the safety net of the country.

Ifad’s director of Latin America and the Caribbean, Josefina Stubbs, said these movements to the countryside had created a challenge. “It means the areas need to provide for better living conditions and more jobs.” However, Stubbs said the situation was at the same time creating an opportunity for Haiti to improve rural farming.

Ifad’s governing council, its highest decision-making body, meets at a crucial time for Haiti, when international efforts begin to shift towards medium- to long-term reconstruction and development.

Ifad has been supporting Haitian farmers for more than 30 years. After a devastating storm season caused about $200-million in damage to food crops in 2008, Ifad funded a special project to kick-start food production. As a result, the 2008 winter planting yielded $5-million in bean crops, helping to improve both food security and the incomes of poor farmers.

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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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