A United Nations scheme to combat high food prices in Haiti has yielded fruit by significantly boosting production, making food available at lower cost and increasing farmers’ incomes, the world body announced today.
The $10.2 million plan to distribute and multiply quality seeds was being carried out, at the Government’s request, by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with financing from the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD).
Among the results achieved, FAO estimates that quality bean seeds from Guatemala, procured and distributed to poor and vulnerable farmers for the 2008 winter planting season for $300,000, have produced $5 million in bean crops.
“We are extremely encouraged by the results we are seeing in this programme which, along with favourable weather, has been an important factor in increasing the amount of food available to poor people in Haiti,” said FAO Haiti Representative Ari Toubo Ibrahim.
The programme was critical for Haiti, where the impact of rising food prices has been so severe that it triggered riots in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in April 2008. Four successive and devastating hurricanes in August and September 2008 meant the seeds poor farmers had saved were either washed away or eaten because people were so hungry.
The scheme helped increase FAO seed stocks in the country so Haiti could have more quality seeds to distribute in case farmers lose their stocks again during this year’s hurricane season, which is now under way.
Almost 250,000 smallholder and landless farmers have or will receive adapted quality seeds through the programme, which will also provide basic tools and advice or training via written material and radio broadcasts on best cultivation techniques.
The programme initially covered three planting seasons in Haiti – winter 2008 and spring and summer 2009 – but the Government now wants to extend the project to the upcoming winter season to build on the results achieved so far.