Post-quake recovery in Haiti begins with farmers, UN agency says

21 January 2010

As rescue operations continue after last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, simultaneous efforts are needed to support agriculture in the poor Caribbean country as the spring planting season approaches, the head of the United Nations agriculture agency said today.

The priority must be to provide farmers with seeds, fertilizers, livestock feed, animal vaccines and agricultural tools ahead of the cereal planting season, which kicks off in March and accounts for 60 per cent of Haiti’s agricultural production, said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Haiti consumes around 1 million tons of cereals annually, of which two-thirds are imported.

“To prevent this urban disaster [from] becoming a rural tragedy… it is crucial that we save the upcoming planting season,” said Mr. Diouf.

“It is urgent that we do this in light of thousands of people fleeing the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince, for the rural areas,” he stressed. Port-au-Prince was the hardest-hit city in last week’s 7.0 magnitude quake.

With food prices also soaring due to food and fuel shortages, those leaving the capital must be given assistance, Mr. Diouf noted.

FAO has nearly $50 million worth of projects to boost food production in Haiti, including the distribution of high-quality seeds. The agency helped increase agricultural production in the country by 15 per cent, helping to alleviate poverty.

FAO has dozens of experts and staff on the ground, with those numbers expected to swell in the coming days to assist the Government and the agriculture ministry, which lost personnel in the quake.

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