Agro institute: Invest in Haitian farming

February 5, 2010

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture´s (IICA) general director, Víctor Villalobos, called on the international community on Tuesday to invest in a post-earthquake agricultural program in Haiti.

The new plan will cost $700 million, IICA estimates.

Institute officials said the money will be used for 20 different projects in Haiti, including buying seeds and farming equipment, repairing and modernizing damaged fields, reforesting and establishing farmer credit and insurance programs. Funds will also help move some of the 1.5 million city dwellers that were displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake to rural areas.

Beginning Wednesday, representatives of Haiti´s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development Ministry will be visiting Italy, Canada, and the United States in the company of IICA and United Nations officials to promote projects among top level officials of these countries´ international cooperation and agriculture agencies.

“One dollar invested in agriculture and rural Haiti profits more (people) more quickly than one invested in any other non-agricultural sector,” Villalobos said of the devastated industry.

According to IICA, 55 percent of Haitians already live in rural areas, the highest proportion of rural residents of any country in the Americas. Still, its principal agricultural products record the worst growth rates in the region.

For example, in the United States, one hectare of planted corn yields approximately 10 tons. Between 2003 and 2007, the same size crop in Haiti yielded less than one ton.

Villalobos said an investment in Haitian agriculture improvements can “help generate employment, income and better living conditions for the poorest sectors of this population.”

Since the earthquake, IICA has set up a station in the Dominican Republic to assist Haiti´s agriculture ministry.

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