Haiti faces some of the highest rates of inequality and food-insecurity of any country on earth. Rural families, the vast majority of whom rely on agriculture for their survival, are particularly vulnerable to exclusion from basic social services, such as education and health facilities, and tend to suffer disproportionately from natural disasters and from the impacts of climate change.
In the rural Artibonite Valley, a range of barriers—lack of attention from the government; detrimental trade policies; absence of agricultural training, credit, and research services; and insufficient responses to natural resource degradation and climate change—have combined to trap the majority of the region’s 1.6 million inhabitants in a cycle of poverty. Currently, just 6 percent of the Artibonite’s population is not affected by hunger, and 43 percent face serious food insecurity. It does not have to be this way. Known as “Haiti’s Breadbasket,” the fertile valley has extensive river systems and irrigation networks,
giving the region significant potential for agricultural development. In fact, as much as 80 percent of the country’s rice and a wide variety of other crops are produced in this valley, though the percentage could be much more. Oxfam and our local partners are working to help the Artibonite’s residents—and the country as a whole—to overcome barriers and realize the potential of the valley. Our vision is that Haiti’s farmers will actively influence improvements in the rice value chain and in policies and practices at local, national, and international levels.
Working with partners
Oxfam recognizes that bringing about meaningful changes to the income and food security of Haiti’s rural population requires a comprehensive approach with targeted interventions throughout the rice value chain. In 2011, Oxfam, together with our partners, launched the multifaceted Artibonite Valley Livelihoods Program. The program is strengthening local farmers groups, water users organizations, women’s associations, and training centers. We also work with local authorities and other government entities, such as Ministry of Agriculture offices, to benefit from their technical expertise, support them as they fulfill their roles, and make it more likely that program activities and progress will be sustained for the long term. In facilitating collaboration between civil society and government, Oxfam is promoting a transformation in the relationship between citizens and the state.
Specifically, the Artibonite Valley Livelihoods Program is working in three key ways at multiple levels:
The program improves systems for agricultural production, processing, and marketing with a focus on the Artibonite Valley. We do this by:
- Promoting research and innovation, such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
- Rehabilitating irrigation and drainage canals to reduce flooding and increase yields.
- Improving farmers’ access to agricultural credit.
- Supporting appropriate mechanization, including high-quality processing centers.
- Addressing equipment maintenance issues by training youth in agricultural mechanics.
- Assisting rice farmers in diversifying sources of income, for example by growing vegetables during the cooler months and by increasing livestock production.
The program transforms the larger environment. We do this by:
- Supporting the development of the National Federation of Haitian Rice Producers.
- Facilitating exchange visits and networking across geographies to promote cross-learning and coordination.
- Building the technical, administrative, and business capacities of community-based organizations.
- Addressing gender inequality by ensuring the meaningful participation of women in all activities.
- Leading trainings and workshops on gender issues, advocacy, and campaigning.
- Campaigning to raise awareness among Haitian consumers of the importance of local production.
- Advocating for increased investment in agriculture.
The program lessens vulnerability, particularly in the Artibonite Valley, through our disaster risk reduction (DRR) program, which complements the livelihoods program. We do this by:
- Strengthening the Haitian government’s civil protection structures and creating an inclusive and diverse emergency local response team.
- Raising awareness of cholera and other risks.
- Constructing healthy wells in dozens of communities.
- Researching climate change and potential adaptations.