Haiti earthquake: Food and agriculture key part of the recovery

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The immediate priorities in Haiti following Tuesday's devastating earthquake are to rescue those still trapped, bring relief and shelter to the injured, road clearing and other operations that are life-saving.

But over the coming weeks and months people will need to be fed and it is crucial that the priority of boosting agricultural production in the country does not get forgotten in the rubble and chaos.

FAO is closely monitoring the situation on the ground to get a clearer picture of the immediate impact on food security and food production. It is working in close partnership with the World Food Programme and other UN agencies dealing with emergency food aid and nutrition.

As soon as the situation on the ground allows it, FAO will continue to build on its expertise and current work to make sure food production continues in the rest of the country. The next agriculture season starts in March.

Destruction of roads, bridges, fishing ports and irrigation infrastructure will all have a serious effect on food production. FAO country team is preparing to asses damages as soon as possible.

The priority for FAO's Haitian agronomists and technicians in the immediate aftermath of this terrible catastrophe is to keep Haitian agriculture production going in support of the effort to feed those in the effected areas.

More than a half of Haitians - between five and six million people - live in rural areas and around 85 percent of the rural population practice some agriculture and farming which accounts for around 26 percent of Haiti's economic output making agriculture by far the country's biggest employer. Up until now, the majority of the hungry and malnourished live in rural areas.

There is a strong possibility of an exodus of homeless people from the earthquake-hit capital to relatives and friends there. Life in Haiti's countryside, with its degraded soils and deforested mountains but its key role in food producion, will prove even more challenging in the wake of the earthquake.

It is therefore even more important that the reconstruction of agricultural assets are high priorities in early rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.