Thursday, March 6, 2008

Haiti: Once-Vibrant Farming Sector in Dire Straits by Nazaire St. Fort

HAITI: Once-Vibrant Farming Sector in Dire Straits

By Nazaire St. Fort*

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar 4 (IPS) - Student activists in Haiti are calling for an overhaul of the nation's agriculture policies, which they say have resulted in Haiti importing more than half of its food while local farmers are mired in poverty.

A petition recently submitted to the René Préval government by students of the Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine (FAMV) department at Haiti's State University calls for a programme spanning the country's 10 departments to increase technical and expert assistance, give subsidies to the agriculture and fishing sector, promote egg and chicken-farming projects to ease reliance on Dominican imports, a nationwide campaign to provide agricultural credits to peasants and an incremental raising of tariffs on foreign agricultural products to benefit Haitian farmers.

Other points of the petition deal with strengthening environmental protection, improving access to social services and higher education for agronomy students, and supporting them to work in the field so that Haiti can develop its own well of local expertise. Of the 420,000 tonnes of rice Haitians consume yearly, 340,000 tonnes are imported. Of the 31 million eggs the Haitian population eats monthly, 30 million are imported from the Dominican Republic. About 80 percent of farmers earn less than 135 dollars a year.

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