The United Nations today urged international donors to fund a $700 million plan to rebuild Haiti’s critical agricultural sector, the cornerstone of the Government’s strategy to get the country back on its feet after the catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck on 12 January.
The investment is slated to be spent over the next 18 months on repairing infrastructure, boosting national food production and creating employment for the thousands of people fleeing the Caribbean country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
“With people moving back to the rural areas, growth in Haiti’s agricultural sector is now an urgent priority and the Haitian Government’s plan does a very good job of laying down the immediate priorities,” said Alexander Jones, FAO Emergencies Response Manager in Haiti.
“The food situation in Haiti was already very fragile before the earthquake and Haiti was highly dependent on food imports,” added Mr. Jones, with almost 60 per cent of Haitians lived in rural areas before the earthquake struck, and 80 per cent of them surviving on less than $2 a day.
The Government estimates that some $32 million is urgently needed for seeds, tools and fertilizers, so that farmers can be ready to begin planting at the start of the spring planting season in March.
Other short-term measures drawn up in the plan include repairing a major sugar refinery, protecting watersheds, steps to ensure reforestation, the reconstruction and reinforcement of collapsed riverbanks and damaged irrigation channels, and the rehabilitation of 600 kilometres of roads.
The government has also recommended purchasing thousands of tons of cereal, pulses and vegetable seeds from domestic markets and abroad, tools and fertilizers, as well as supporting the livestock sector for the next 18 months.
Establishing storage facilities to stock food and grain in preparation for Haiti’s upcoming hurricane season is also a priority after four successive tropical storms devastated Haiti’s agricultural sector in September 2008.