For several decades Haiti has faced significant food security and nutrition challenges. Chronically high levels of poverty coupled with soil erosion, declining agricultural productivity, and high population growth combine to make obtaining adequate food a daily struggle for many Haitians. It is estimated that in some departments of the country up to 30 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Although approximately 60 percent of Haitians work in agriculture, up to half of Haiti’s food is imported. In 2012, Tropical Storm Isaac, Hurricane Sandy, and a lingering drought exacerbated Haiti’s already precarious situation. As a result, 1.52 million Haitians—approximately 15 percent of the population—are now classified as severely food insecure.
Food security is a priority sector of U.S. Government development strategy in Haiti. The U. S. Government’s global Feed the Future initiative is supporting the Government of Haiti’s priorities and is working to ensure sustainable growth in the agricultural sector. The U.S. Government and its implementing partners are working as well as scientists to introduce Haitian farmers to new techniques and technologies, strengthen agricultural infrastructure along the entire value chain, and attract investments from private businesses. The overall aim is to increase crop yields and income for more than 100,000 farmer households. This investment will also help improve food security and boost nutrition for the general population. In addition, the U.S. Government is targeting pockets of chronic food insecurity through Title II-funded Mother and Child Health and Nutrition interventions, sustainable agriculture, and food voucher programming in particularly vulnerable regions of the country.
The cumulative effect of a prolonged drought, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Hurricane Sandy has caused huge losses in agricultural production throughout the country for most of 2012 and into 2013. The impact of these crop losses has been a prolonged “hunger season” this year in Haiti. The “hunger season” refers to the three-month period between rainy seasons during which time there is little crop harvesting and thus few farming employment opportunities. The most pressing challenges to help agricultural production get back on track have been repairing storm-related damage to infrastructure and assisting farmers to gear up for spring production. USAID also focused on reducing backsliding on household nutritional indicators by providing food assistance and additional health services to targeted populations to address the needs of the most vulnerable households.
The U.S. Government response to drought- and storm-generated food challenges has been to provide approximately $25 million for additional emergency resources for food-assisted Mother and Child Health and Nutrition activities, short-term employment, seeds, and the provision of food vouchers in the most food insecure parts of the country. An additional $1 million was allocated for shelter and seed provision in the south and southeast, and $8 million of Feed the Future West funding were reprogrammed to repair damaged irrigation canals and roads and provide seeds and other inputs to get farmers back in their fields north of Port-au-Prince in the Cul de Sac Plains.
Through USAID’s Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP), the U.S. Government has supported over 1.6 million people:
Under the more recent emergency programs that are being implemented as a result of the drought and storms in 2012, approximately 700,000 individuals are benefiting either directly or indirectly from USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance-supported activities:
USAID’s Feed the Future West program is promoting agricultural production, natural resource management, and a modern post-harvest and marketing system. Accomplishments include: