Emergency seed distributions help Haitian farmers grow for winter harvest

by Holly Demaree
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Haiti seed recieval
Men and women line up to receive bags of planting seeds in Jeremie, Grand'Anse Department, one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Matthew.
 
ROME, ITALY — With little time to lose to secure a winter harvest in Hurricane-struck Haiti, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (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% 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% 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,” said Nathanael Hishamunda, FAO representative in Haiti.  “That's why it's so important we act now and in a robust way. 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.”

To address both immediate and long-term food needs, FAO is collaborating with the World Food Program (WFP), which provides 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. These short-cycle crops are ideal in emergencies as they provide food quickly. 

Haiti's agricultural spring season starting in April 2017 will be crucial. The spring season traditionally makes up 60% of Haiti's annual production and is the main source of food for rural households throughout 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. 

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