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Haiti’s Greenhouse Revolution

By Anna-Maija Mattila-Litvak

A new method for growing crops in Haiti is starting to take root. A “greenhouse revolution,” introduced by USAID, is bearing exceptional harvests, increasing incomes and countering environmental degradation.

The use of greenhouses is a common practice in many countries but unknown in Haiti until recently. Participating farmers, who previously were ready to abandon their increasingly challenging trade, are producing larger yields and are trading their produce more efficiently and for higher profits. That bounty includes lettuce, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, beets, carrots, strawberries and flowers such as chrysanthemums and gladioli. These are now sold locally to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and farmers markets.

About 60 percent of Haitians depend on agriculture for their income. But making ends meet is difficult and, until recently, agricultural productivity has systematically declined over the last three decades. The January 2010 earthquake prompted the Government of Haiti and its partners, including the U.S. Government, to put into place a new, comprehensive development strategy for guiding medium-term agricultural investments. USAID contributes through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, as a major part of this effort.

In 2012, a drought, a tropical storm and a hurricane exacerbated agricultural development challenges, with flooding and mudslides washing away fields and vegetation. These catastrophes dovetailed with environmental degradation due to a longstanding practice of cutting down trees for agricultural land and to use as charcoal for cooking.

Farmers like Michel Dorlean, a flower producer, struggled financially. The horticulturalist grew up learning the family business of planting flowers on traditional hillside plots in his mountainous village of Furcy. The hillside locations leave flowers vulnerable to excessive heat, wind, humidity and rain. Dorlean used to lose a portion of his yields to weather.

But last year, his battered flower plots flourished into a profitable business thanks to greenhouse activities spurred by Feed the Future West, a USAID-supported project under Feed the Future.

Continue reading this article in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines. 

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