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Purchasing Food in Haiti: Contributing to the Development of the Agricultural Sector

Buying Rice in the South of Haiti 1

This is one of the main agricultural production areas in Haiti. A beautiful valley just outside the Southern town of Les Cayes.

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Here in Torbeck, rice paddies and fields line every road. Agriculture is the main occupation. Despite that, Haiti is what we call a food-deficit country. That means that farmers do not grow enough food to feed the entire population. About half of what is consumed in the country has to be imported.

Buying Rice in the South of Haiti 3

The government would like to change that and increasing food production is a priority in Haiti. Ylmo Louinesse has been growing rice in this field since he was a teenager. He rents about one hectare of land. One of the problems he’s had over the years is that no matter how hard he worked on his land, he could never produce a lot of rice.

Buying Rice in the South of Haiti 4

In 2009, a group of Taiwanese arrived in the region with a specific mandate given to them by the authorities. Could they help farmers produce more rice? “Nearly 70% of the rice consumed in the country is imported", said Shui-Sung Hsiang, the head of the Taiwanese cooperation in Haiti. "The rice growing areas could produce 70% of the rice consumed by Haitians, so they would only need to import 30%. We believe there is great potential here to achieve this goal.”

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When they arrived though, production yield was low, very low. In average, farmers managed to grow about a ton to a ton and a half of rice per hectare. The Taiwanese believe that the region has the potential of producing at least 6 times more rice. “Before, we used to plant a lot of rice but the yield was minimal, says Jacques Jonas Charles, a rice farmer and the head of the local association in Charlette. Now, with the technical assistance we get from the Taiwanese, we are better farmers. We take better care of our fields, have a better yield and our families benefit.”

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In less than three years, farmers have tripled their production. After the harvests, rice is taken to this processing center, financed and managed by the Taiwanese Cooperation, where it is first laid outside for about a day to dry under the hot sun...

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...then, a machine peels each grain of rice...

Buying Rice in the South of Haiti 8 reveal this. In the summer of 2011, WFP purchased 500 tons of rice from Ylmo, Jacques Jonas and their neighbors. “When you have an organization like the World Food Programme participating in the development of this project, that helps farmers understand that they should continue growing their crops. They know that their product is going to get sold, that they will get paid easily and that motivates them to work more,” said Pierre Jeune, one of the agronomists working with the Taiwanese cooperation and the Head of Operations in Torbeck.

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The Government of Canada provided the funds for this purchase at one condition: the rice has to be used in the school meals program. In fact, all the food bought in Haiti by WFP is going to this program. The agency, working under the direction of Haitian authorities, believes that this is the most effective way to stimulate local economies. Developing links between farmers and schools encourages the development of competitive markets, supports productivity and increases the producer’s revenues.

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The Ministry of Agriculture, WFP and other partners are developing strategic tools to increase the country’s agricultural production. This will help reduce food insecurity while increasing access to markets for local farmers. WFP has put in place a series of measures. For example, the tender process was modified to allow small farmers associations to bid only for the quantities of food they can produce and training sessions were held to help farmers master every step of the tender process, from bidding to delivery.

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The rice purchased in Torbeck will be used in schools like this one. By encouraging the development of new markets for local products, entire families, entire communities benefit!

This summer, WFP purchased 500 tons of rice from small farmers in Torbeck. The food will be eaten by children enrolled in the country's schools. Developing links between farmers and the school meals program is a priority for WFP Haiti because it's an effective way to support the development of competitive markets, productivity and to increase farmer’s revenues.