FAO in HAITI, one year on

from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 10 Jan 2011
"Agriculture is the lifeblood of this country. FAO will continue to work with the government so that Haitians have jobs, income and food for themselves and their families."
FAO Director General, Jacques Diouf

Helping Haiti's most vulnerable communities rebuild their livelihoods

On 12 January 2010, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti leading to massive loss of life and causing unprecedented damage to urban and rural areas in the south and west of the country.

Over half of the country's population lives in rural areas - between five and six million people - and the majority of these practice some form of farming or agricultural production. The agriculture sector is by far Haiti's biggest employer, accounting for about 26 percent of the country's economic output. Although the earthquake was by and large an urban tragedy, its impact resounded throughout the country, severely disrupting economic infrastructure in rural areas.

Haiti is prone to natural disasters, being regularly hit by hurricanes and tropical storms, which compound the extremely high levels of poverty in the country. Over the last 15 years, Haiti has faced 15 disasters. Even before the earthquake, the country was in a state of protracted crisis, with undernourishment affecting over half the population.

The country now faces three emergencies simultaneously: the aftermath of the earthquake; a cholera outbreak; and, since 5 November, Hurricane Tomas. While the hurricane's impact was less than originally foreseen, flooding and landslides have created additional humanitarian needs across the country, with the Centre, Northwest, North and Nippes departments experiencing severe agricultural losses.

FAO Emergency Response

Immediately after the earthquake -on 15 January - the UN and its partners launched a Flash Appeal to rapidly respond to the devastation in Haiti. This was revised - on 18 February - to an amount of USD 1.4 billion, of which the agriculture sector accounted for USD 58.8 million.

FAO appealed for USD 32.5 million and, as of today (Dec. 2010) has received USD 24.1 million.

In response to the earthquake, FAO is helping affected rural people to rebuild their livelihoods and supporting the integration and resettlement of displaced populations. This involves emergency food security interventions, particularly focused on distributing inputs for the spring and summer planting seasons; carrying out assessments of the food security situation; coordinating agricultural interventions; and supporting national food security data management.

By providing seeds, hand tools and fertilizers during spring and summer 2010 (April to October), FAO was able to help 204 501 families (about a million people) throughout the country. In urban areas, families have been provided with water pumps, seeds and fertilizers to start home vegetable gardens.

Building the transition to development into its emergency programme, FAO has developed a three-year programme that involves: (i) coordination; (ii) supporting food security; and (iii) reducing the risk related to natural disasters.

At present, FAO has over 20 international experts and more than 120 national technical and officers and personnel currently working through its Emergency Rehabilitation and Coordination Unit offices, which are spread throughout the country.


FAO has led the Agriculture Cluster since a the week after the earthquake, providing technical advice and guidance to the over 200 organizations and institutions that participate in the Cluster and helping bring national and international NGOs in line with the Ministry and the Table Sectorielle in all technical and planning matters.

FAO has also been helping the National Food Security Coordination to re-establish its agriculture and food security information network following the major damage sustained in the earthquake. This is being done through a project that aims to enhance food security, and the collection, analysis and management of related information.

Food security and input distribution

After the earthquake FAO and WFP carried out a Crop and Food Security Assessment. This highlighted a fall in the production of cereals (by 9 percent), pulses (by 20 percent), root crops (by 12 percent) and plantain (by 14 percent) in 2010. However, overall the food situation in Haiti improved between January and June 2010 thanks to food assistance, the resumption of agricultural activities helped by the distribution of seeds and tools, access to cash or food through cash- or food-for-work activities, and the recovery of the agricultural and non-agricultural food trade. [Please click here for further details of the assessment].

Spring and summer seasons

Given the damage caused by the 12 January earthquake and owing to its proximity to the most important planting season of the year in Haiti (which provides 60 percent of the available food in the country), FAO adopted a blanket distribution strategy in the directly affected areas in Ouest and Sud-Est departments.

During the spring and summer planting seasons (April to October), FAO has reached 204 501 households (approximately 1 million beneficiaries) throughout the country, both in rural and urban areas through seeds, tools and fertilizers distribution. FAO managed to assist farming families located in earthquake affected zones with the distribution of 1 254 tonnes of légumiseuses, 970 tonnes of cereals (maize and sorghum), 8.4 million roots and tubers for starch crop planting, 100 000 banana plants, 15.5 tonnes of vegetable seeds, 677 517 agricultural tools, 9 345 tonnes of fertilizer and 170 tonnes of compost. In addition, 17 000 households have been supported through FAO's urban agriculture interventions in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Gressier, Fonds-Parisien, Croix-des-Bouquettes and Léogâne. In these areas FAO has delivered 100 water pumps, 1 000 tonnees of fertilizers and almost 9 600 kg of vegetable seeds.

Hurricane season & cholera outbreak

After the earthquake, FAO developed a Contingency Plan for the 2010 Hurricane Season in order to assist the Government's emergency response to the impact of hurricanes in the agricultural sector. The plan focused on two main outputs: 1) the establishment of a communication and coordination network among all partners in the agriculture sector; and 2) the storage of 300 tonnes of beans and maize seeds along with over 80 000 tools in four strategic locations around the country. This strategy ensured appropriate coordination between partners on the response to hurricane Tomas and allowed FAO to support affected households in remote areas.

The FAO team in Haiti, together with the Government and international agencies, has finalized the assessment of the impact of Hurricane Tomas on the agriculture sector. According to the assessment, Grand Anse, Nippe, Sud, Sud Est, Ouest (Leogane - Petit Goave) and North Ouest departments have experienced significant losses. FAO's response started immediately after the hurricane and included direct support to affected rural households, distribution of seeds and tools.Since the month of October, 2010, Haiti has been facing a severe outbreak of cholera, which has been made more complex by the ongoing humanitarian situation resulting from the earthquake. The humanitarian response was mobilized quickly after the first confirmed cases, and has been multi-sectoral involving Government institutions, UN agencies including FAO and non-governmental organizations. FAO is mobilizing financial and human resources to better respond to the disaster, including provision of messages on food safety and agriculture-cholera linkages.

Winter season

For the ongoing winter season (November-January), FAO is implementing interventions aimed at both providing immediate relief and longer-term rehabilitation and sustainability through distribution and multiplication of seeds, the implementation of sustainable watershed management, urban agriculture, agro-forestry activities, and the creation of employment in rural areas. The ongoing winter season constitutes a shift for FAO's intervention from direct input distribution to seed multiplication and other more sustainable and transition-oriented activities.

As of the end of December 2010, 143 868 households (corresponding to 719 340 individuals) have been supported through vegetable production activities in urban and peri-urban areas, distribution of crop-seeds and watershed management interventions.

Watershed management activities are currently ongoing to improve environmental conditions and livelihoods in selected watersheds. This assistance provides an immediate support to the affected population, while building the foundations for longer-term sustainable development. Those interventions are related to reforestation, sustainable agriculture development and watershed management and they all contribute to reduce the impact of future extreme weather conditions on highly sensible areas. The strategy for implementation focuses on opportunities for income generation through promoting High Intensity Labour Initiatives (HIMO), which is one of the priorities of the Haitian Government in assisting the population to restore their livelihoods. These activities are part of a joint UN programme.