From 9 to 13 February, a delegation of staff members of the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture was in Brazil for a study visit organized by the Centre of Excellence against Hunger, in partnership with the World Bank. The purpose of the visit was to understand the main Brazilian strategies for strengthening agricultural production, especially family farming, as a way to achieve food and nutritional security.
During the opening session of the study visit, held at World Bank headquarters in Brasilia, the director of the Center of Excellence, Daniel Balaban, said: "Brazil is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, with records on grain production, but most of this production is for export. The food that feed most of the Brazilians comes from smallholder farmers. "
Diego Arias, senior economist of the World Bank in Brazil, said the delegation would see firsthand "the Brazilian programmes so they could serve as inspiration for the improvement of Haitian programmes to develop agriculture." According to the Haitian delegation, the visit to Brazil would help the country to develop a strategy to meet the growing demand for food, improve the income of farmers in a sustainable way and promote rational environmental management.
The visitors had the opportunity to understand how Brazil has created a structured demand for products from smallholder farms through institutional purchases, especially through the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) and the Food Acquisition Program. They could also go to the field to see rural technical assistance initiatives to support farmers in improving productivity, promoting cooperatives and facilitating farmers' access to governmental programmes of credit and institutional purchases. Technical assistance is provided by the Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Enterprise of the Federal District (Emater-DF), a partner of the Centre.
The field visit took place in Planaltina, municipality of the Federal District, in the Taquara community. They were able to talk with the president of a cooperative, Ivan Engler, and visit his 9-acre property, where he produces passion fruit, lemon, cabbage, kale, sweet potato and others. They discussed the importance of associations and farmer participation in government procurement programs. "With the cooperative, producers receive a fair price for the goods. The Emater-DF has provided critical support for us to choose what to plant and how to efficiently plant it," said Engler. The cooperative has 54 members.
The Haitian delegation also participated in meetings with the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), responsible for PNAE; with the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), responsible for the Bolsa Familia and other social programmes; with the National Supply Company (Conab); with the National Council of Food and Nutrition Security (CONSEA); and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa).
At the closing session, the delegation of Haiti presented its views on the study visit. They highlighted as positive points of what they saw in Brazil: the technical assistance to smallholder farmers, the coordination between various ministries to fulfill the food security and school feeding policies, the concern with the nutritional value of school meals, the sound legislation, and the active participation of different stakeholders (academia, civil society, government) in the implementation of social policies.
The ambassador of Haiti to Brazil, Madsen Cherubin, thanked for the opportunity and stated that the issue of food security is a priority for the Haitian government. The director of the Centre of Excellence, Daniel Balaban, also stressed the importance of exchanging experiences between the two countries. "Haiti is very important for Brazil and the World Food Programme. We are here to support you in any way. We hope this is a first collaboration stage between WFP, the World Bank and the government of Brazil. If you believe that it is possible, everything is possible. With political commitment, everything is possible," Balaban said.
The head of the Haitian delegation, Edie Charles, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, said he was optimistic about the challenges they need to overcome. "Here in Brazil we have seen that it is possible to promote family farming through school feeding. Consume what we produce and produce what we consume, with an emphasis on local production. That is what we want to build in Haiti and this can be done through education," he said.
According to Charles, the biggest challenges today in Haiti to fight hunger are the unequal access to food, lack of investment and stimulus for domestic agricultural production, the strong influence of foreign products, which are cheaper than local ones, and the lack of inter-ministerial policy coordination.
"After this visit to Brazil, we will consolidate and support policies for smallholder farmers in our country, we are committed to involving other ministries and we will request more technical support from WFP," he concluded.