Haiti

IDB approves $27.1 million soft loan to boost agricultural productivity in Haiti

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A $27.1 million soft loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti will finance a project to help some 10,000 rural families intensify and diversify their farming practices in ways that increase their incomes, conserve soil and water resources and reduce the risks of floods and mudslides in a key watershed.

The project will be carried out in the Ennery-Quinte watershed, in the foothills north of the city of Gonaïves. This area was the point of origin of most of the devastating floods that killed thousands of people in September 2004 following Hurricane Jeanne.

The project, which will be carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR), will finance the transfer of agricultural technologies and watershed protection approaches proven to work in Haiti. It will also rehabilitate small-scale irrigation systems and strengthen producer and water-user organizations.

"All experiences in Haiti point up both the potential and the need to protect the soil and water resources at the same time as efforts are made to increase rural families' incomes," said IDB project team leader John Horton. "Every component of this new project was designed following that central principle."

While rural families make up the majority of Haiti's population, and most still consider themselves farmers, less than half of their income comes from agriculture. Nevertheless, there are areas such as the 450-square kilometer Ennery-Quinte watershed with potential to boost farming's contribution to household incomes and to the national economy more broadly, while improving the management of land and water resources.

The Ennery-Quinte project will complement an agricultural intensification program in the contiguous Artibonite Valley. The program, known by the French acronym PIA, is backed by a $41.9-million IDB loan.

The MARNDR Coordination Office that is running the PIA will manage the new project. This executing unit, which has a proven ability to implement programs, has offices in Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite Valley and will soon open a new branch in the Ennery-Quinte project area.

Intensification of Sustainable Agriculture

The new project combines the transfer of the best basic farming know-how already developed in Haiti with the establishment of agricultural supply businesses that will provide inputs such as improved seeds and seedlings or services such as fruit tree grafting.

The project focuses on linking producers to existing markets for sustainable hillside and irrigated agricultural production. It also aims to increase farming profitability through the reduction of significant yet avoidable post-harvest losses.

A prime example is the use of "top-work grafting" to convert existing mango trees to produce export-quality mangoes. This technique saves trees from the threat of being chopped for firewood, transforming them into highly profitable assets to supply a well-established export industry. In the upper watershed, the project will boost coffee production among smallholder growers, since this crop's deep roots protect against hillside erosion.

Watershed Protection and Small-Scale Irrigation

In tandem with the intensification of various soil-stabilizing trees and crops, the project will help rural communities put in place physical barriers to prevent hillside run-off in targeted areas of the watershed. These barriers will reduce erosion and increase water retention, lowering the risks of floods and mudslides. Activities will focus on simple and practical methods capable of generating more income, such as hedge corridor inter-cropping, contour planting and enclosed livestock management techniques.

Efforts to improve watershed management will extend from hillside areas above 1,000 meters all the way down to irrigated areas along the lower reaches of the watershed. The project will finance institutional strengthening for hydrological measurement, watershed protection and for the eventual transfer of ownership of irrigated perimeters to water-user associations.

Although producer and water user associations continue to operate in the Ennery-Quinte area as best they can, their infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and, in some cases, was destroyed by Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004. Employing a participatory approach, the project will advance as producers assume growing responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the irrigation systems.

IDB Support for Haiti

The Inter-American Development Bank has the largest loan portfolio in execution in Haiti. To address the country's evolving needs and accelerate program execution and disbursements, the IDB has streamlined its procedures, increased its flexibility and strengthened its Port-au-Prince office.

The portfolio has some $462 million for basic infrastructure, roads, agriculture, water and sanitation, primary education, job training, community development and small productive projects throughout the country. Many of the projects were designed to be labor-intensive in order to generate more jobs during their execution.

The IDB also supports public finance reforms to raise state revenues and improve effectiveness and transparency in the public sector

Other loans totaling $118 million are in advanced stages of preparation for programs in sectors such as transportation, environmental management, early childhood development, water distribution, and access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises.

The IDB coordinates its activities closely with donor country agencies and multilateral institutions in support of the Interim Cooperation Framework, Haiti's strategy to address its most pressing political, economic and social problems during the transition to a new elected government.