The Inter-American Development Bank reports on the successes of its Agriculture Intensification Programme in Haiti:
Farmers in Haiti’s principal agricultural region have increased yields of some staple crops through better irrigation (including an addition of irrigated land of 5,000 to 7,000 hectares, depending on the season), improved seeds, fertilization, pest control, and other technologies as the result of the IDB-financed Agricultural Intensification Program.
“The program has helped me to farm more efficiently,” says Phillip Arilus, 50, in the Petite Riviere de l’Artibonite. “I can see the difference right away in the high quality of the seeds that I put in the earth, and in my final harvest. I expect better profits and a better life for my family,” says the father of four.
In pilot areas, rice yields (using the TCS-10 variety) have increased from 1.8 to 4.5 metric tons per hectare. Additional tests are being completed on pepper, onion, and tomato yields. The program’s final evaluation will measure the extent to which these increases in planted areas and yields have translated into higher income for the producers.
“But a large part of the valley is still not productive,” Arilus adds. “We must do more to make the whole valley fruitful.”
Most of the 60 percent of Haitians living in rural areas consider themselves to be farmers. However, agriculture typically provide less than half of their income, the remainder consisting of remittances from family members abroad or in Port-au-Prince, the sale of their labor, or subsistence commerce. Most live in extreme poverty and many suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
With a population density of about 350 people per square kilometer, Haiti has exhausted its agricultural frontier and exceeded the land’s sustainable carrying capacity. In the Artibonite Valley’s irrigated area, the average family farm consists of about one hectare of land.
The only option is to intensify crop production with sustainable methods. In the Artibonite Valley, where the program is being carried out, the good alluvial soils are suitable for intensified agriculture. The construction of the Peligre Dam and irrigation infrastructures in the 1950s turned the valley into the country’s principal rice growing region. At present, about 300,000 people depend on the irrigated agriculture area for their subsistence.
The program’s aim of intensifying agricultural production in the valley, which is located north of Port-au-Prince, is aligned with two of the Haitian government’s top priorities: revitalizing agriculture and decentralizing the country’s economic activity.
[Photo: mediahacker on Flickr.]