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Haitian Farmers Receive Seeds & Tools From FAO

Haitian farmers receive much-needed seeds and tools from UN agency

4 August 2008 - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has started distributing urgently-needed seeds and tools to Haiti's most vulnerable farmers to help them cope with the rising costs of food, fuel and fertilizer, ahead of the new planting season.

Some 600 tonnes of seeds, including beans, maize and sorghum, as well as tools such as hoes and machetes, are being distributed for the July/August planting season under FAO's ongoing international Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP).

Launched in December 2007, the Initiative now covers 57 of the food-deficit countries most vulnerable to high prices.

Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was particularly hard hit by the global rise in food prices, which led to deadly riots in April.

"The food riots did not come as a surprise," said Javier Escobedo, FAO's Emergency Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. "Haiti was already in a deep crisis, when farmers were badly hit by floods last year. The international price increases made matters worse."

FAO's Representative in Haiti, Ari Toubo Ibrahim, underscored the need to help the country boost agricultural production in addition to providing emergency relief. "This crisis may present a unique opportunity to reverse the state of neglect of Haiti's agriculture," he said.

Mr. Ibrahim added that Haitian farmers not only have a potential to feed much more of the country's population, they can also generate surpluses and incomes.

The $4 million FAO operation, which will reach about 70,000 farming families in the poorest parts of Haiti, is being funded by the Government of Spain, the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and FAO.

If more funds become available, FAO plans to extend the distribution for the next two planting seasons, in October/November 2008 and February/March 2009, which would aid another 400,000 families.

FAO is also working on a $10 million programme funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the October/November planting season.

But the agency stressed that more is needed - a total of $64 million is required to cover the needs of almost 500,000 vulnerable families for the next three seasons. "They need help urgently to produce," Ibrahim said.

ENDS

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