Rome. - With little time to lose to secure a winter harvest in Hurricane-struck Haiti, FAO has begun emergency distributions of seeds and tools to help disaster-affected families produce food and restore livelihoods lost in the country's biggest humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake.
Hurricane Matthew struck in October during Haiti's second main harvest time, causing losses to agriculture of $580 million and striking a major blow to the country's food security. Family farming − a primary food source for most Haitians − took an especially heavy blow in the hurricane that wiped out 90 percent of the country's harvest.
The latest food security assessment conducted just after the hurricane showed that some 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance. Out of this number, more than 800 000 people are in urgent need of food aid and some 600 000 base their livelihood exclusively on agriculture.
In the heaviest-hit areas − including Grand'Anse, parts of Nippes, and Sud departments − over 75 percent of the population is struggling with the effects of the hurricane, as livelihoods based on agriculture, livestock and fisheries were almost completely destroyed.
"Hurricane Matthew not only eliminated the last harvest - it also compromised the upcoming planting season and the country's ability to feed itself. That's why it's so important we act now and in a robust way," said Nathanael Hishamunda, FAO Representative in Haiti. "These communities need urgent support to prevent them from adapting survival strategies that put them into a vicious cycle of dependence, including eating seeds meant for producing food in future harvests," he added.
To address both immediate and long-term food needs, FAO is collaborating with the World Food Programme (WFP), which provide food aid to the same families that receive FAO emergency seeds as planting materials. This ensures farming families can use the seeds distributed for growing vegetables to recover their livelihoods and feed their communities in the months to come.
Last week alone, in the presence of Haiti's agriculture minister Pierre Guito Laurore, FAO has begun distributing emergency supplies to some 22 500 people in Marfranc, one of the hardest-hit parts of Grand'Anse department. These communities received 15 tonnes of seeds that will produce an estimated 75 tonnes of green beans and 90 tonnes of lima beans for hurricane-affected families. These short-cycle crops are ideal in emergencies as they provide food quickly. In an effort to reboot sweet potato production, farming communities will further benefit from the distribution of over 2.2 million sweet potato cuttings for planting in the winter growing season.
In all, FAO emergency intervention for the winter staple crop season and short-cycle horticultural crops will have, by mid-December, reached 25 050 households −125 250 people− in the most affected departments of Haiti, including 5 400 households in Grand'Anse, 15 150 in Sud, 2 000 in Nord-Ouest, 1 500 in the Artibonite, and another 1 000 across Sud-Est and Ouest. FAO is also providing immediate assistance to 1 500 fisher families and 2 000 herder families.
Haiti's agricultural spring season starting in April 2017 will be crucial. The spring season traditionally makes up 60 percent of Haiti's annual production and is the main source of food for rural households along the year. To achieve this, FAO will provide both seeds and tools, as well as cash transfers, technical training and extension services. Other activities will support markets rehabilitation and strengthen local market value chains. The same support will be extended to livestock owners and fishers who have lost their assets and productive capacity, ensuring equal benefits for affected men and women.
Many livestock keepers lost valuable animals in the hurricane and with it important sources of milk, meat and income. The destruction of pastureland, meanwhile, is limiting the availability of feed for their remaining livestock. In response, FAO plans to vaccinate and treat livestock, restock diminished herds and help livestock farmers produce fodder to keep their animals healthy and productive.
FAO will also distribute fishing equipment, such as fishing lines and hooks, engines and gear, to fishers who have lost their livelihoods in the hurricane.
Of the $9 million FAO required for immediate assistance to 300 000 hurricane-affected people, $5.6 million is still missing to provide immediate crop, livestock and fisheries support.
To support the longer-term recovery and resilience of Haiti's farming communities, FAO has developed a 12-month response plan that targets 600 000 severely food insecure people. Of the $30 million required under the plan, only 1.5 million has been received so far.
"There is a Creole slogan within the department of agriculture - Agrikilti-a kapab fè goud la gen plis vale - that says farming holds the potential to boost Haiti's economy and its currency. And we need the international community to come closer together now to help farmers fulfil that potential," Hishamunda added.