Approximately 60 percent of the population works in agriculture, a vital element of Haiti’s economy. As part of our Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Government (USG) is implementing a robust agricultural program that is raising yields through the introduction of improved farming techniques. In 2011, the agriculture program reached approximately 10,000 farmers. Through the program, Haitians have achieved significant increases in crop yields over pre-earthquake baselines: Hybrid corn yields were up 338 percent for imported seeds and 216 percent for local seeds; beans were up 97 percent; plantains up 21percent. Yields for rice under the System of Rice Intensification, where less water, fewer seeds and less fertilizer are used, were 64 percent higher.
Extension services supported by the USG reached more than 9,000 Haitian farmers, focusing on such crops as beans, corn, rice, sorghum, potatoes, leeks and plantains. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the USG increased the output of 8,750 farmers by an average of 75 percent, generating $14.4 million of gross margins for farmers. More than 600 trained Master Farmers are sharing skills to improve agriculture in their communities. In some cases, these superior farming techniques can be as straightforward as an improved method for harvesting and packing mangoes that reduces crop loss.
Agricultural sector assistance from the USG also funded the planting of nearly 1.5 million fruit and forest trees, placed 10,000 hectares of land under improved natural resource management, rehabilitated 18 km of road, and trained more than 10,000 people ―including 2,500 cacao farmers through 128 farmer field schools. Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USG is providing technical assistance to the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, conducting 10 planningmissions with the ministry to identify areas for potential collaboration.
In 2011, USG-funded programs worked on 17 ravine treatment and river bank strengthening projects to protect productive plains in USG development corridors, stabilizing more than 44 hectares of hillsides. A major flood protection achievement was the completion of the widening of the La Quinte River. As a result of this supported intervention, no major flooding occurred in the Gonaives plain during the 2011 rainy and hurricane season, thus averting the customary seasonal damage to farming in the region.
Improved technology and increased skills are also helping Haitians build economic security. Working in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the $15 million Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) was established to enable Haitians the ability to send, receive and store money using their mobile phones. Mobile money and the accompanying banking services can unlock economic potential for a broad spectrum of Haiti’s population. As of November 2011, the HMMI had verified more than 100,000 transactions.
Improving Haiti’s economy is the best long-term foundation for food security. At present, however, thousands of Haitians still remain vulnerable to hunger. USG food assistance projects―including food vouchers, food for work, health promotion, and agriculture and resource management―reached more than 3.5 million people in 2011.