Graziano da Silva pledged FAO's support to Haiti through interventions that address both immediate crisis situations and the root causes of the island nation's food insecurity and poverty.
The objective is, "to make Haitians, especially farmers, more resilient to climate and other challenges. But there is only one way to achieve this," he stressed — through investment. "If we don't invest today, we will pay the price tomorrow."
FAO and the government of Haiti are seeking $74 million over the next 12 months to help rehabilitate the country's agricultural sector in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Tropical Storm Isaac, and a drought that occurred earlier this year. Together, they caused colossal damage to Haiti's agriculture and fisheries; as of October, two million Haitians were facing food and nutrition insecurity.
President Martelly said that during his one-to-one meeting with Graziano da Silva at FAO headquarters he expressed his thanks to FAO for the organization's "great work" in his country. "It's a success story," he said.
"We have suffered a lot but things are changing," Martelly said, inviting potential investors and experts to come and see "the new Haiti". No country had ever pulled itself out of poverty through charity, he said. Investment was key in Haiti, a country where opportunities abounded both in agriculture and in other sectors, such as energy, he added.
Laurent Thomas, FAO assistant director-general for technical cooperation, said, "If we don't intervene quickly, over 60% of the population deriving their livelihood from agriculture will be put at risk."
FAO and the government of Haiti are calling for funds to urgently help small farmers plant crops for next year's harvest. The country's next planting seasons starts in December.
Hurricane Sandy was the third disaster to hit the country in the space of a few months. The combined impact on the agricultural sector, which accounts for 25% of Haiti's GDP and employs up to two thirds of its population, has been estimated at $254 million.
The $74 million sought by Haiti's government and FAO for the agricultural sector would be used to rehabilitate irrigation schemes and rural access roads; for the treatment of river banks and gullies and associated watershed management activities, including tree planting to prevent flooding; to rehabilitate local seed production, provide seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural tools; for livestock vaccination and parasite control; to support to inland fisheries and protect the mangrove trees which shield Haiti's coastline; and undertake capacity development through training in disaster preparedness.
Out of the $74 million called for, FAO has so far secured $2.7 million, with indications of a further $5-$6 million that are in the pipeline from different donors. FAO will implement both short- and medium term projects in response to the current crisis, ranging from immediate relief activities to interventions that have a longer-term economic and environmental impact. Combining both economic and environmental activities will be key.