A Brief History of Public Extension Policies, Resources and Advisory Activities in Haiti
Agriculture plays a dominant role in the Haitian economy. The quality and productivity of local farming are constrained by the dominance of small-scale subsistence farms (average farm size is 0.5 Ha), weak or non-existent extension services, insufficiently developed food supply chains, limited access to rural credit markets, a weak animal and plant national system, and inability to meet increasingly important food safety standards (PID, 2011). Three categories of actors and operators are directly involved in the flow of activities or in the definition of policies affecting agricultural production and extension advisory services in Haiti: the public sector represented by different ministries, public institutions, and territorial communities; the farmers, producers, rural entrepreneurs and their organizations; and NGOs, consulting firms, universities, and agro-enterprise business stores. The Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) is the leading public institution that operates through its decentralized structures including: Board of Agricultural Department, Municipal Agricultural Office (BAC), research and training centers, and the independent entities under its supervision (MARNDR,
Since the 1990s, MARNDR has been in charge of establishing agriculture sector policy, directing and coordinating public investments in the sector, coordinating the interventions of the different actors involved and ensuring a minimum of basic agriculture public services especially in terms of agriculture research and extension, sanitary protection, training, and information in the sector. The public sector agricultural policy leans on the urgencies of contractual services provided by private sector (PME, NGO, consultants, other projects) and ensures that contracts are executed at all levels within the decentralized services of the MARNDR. However, some of the institutional challenges faced by MARNDR in the context of agriculture research and extension are twofold: a lack of a centralized agriculture research and extension planning function; and the difficulty in coordinating a myriad of available but insufficient free agriculture extension and training services offered by NGOs working in rural areas (MARNDR, 2010).
In the past decades, agricultural programs have not been able to provide necessary resources and support for a sustainable increase of productivity in the agricultural sector. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the country, and in particular the agriculture sector, has suffered three major exogenous systemic shocks in recent years: (i) the sharp increase in international food, fuel and fertilizer prices; (ii) the loss of farmers’ assets and agricultural output due to the recent hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008; and (iii) the earthquake of January 12th , 2010, which devastated the capital, caused an exodus of around 600,000 people to rural areas, and significantly damaged urban and sub-urban infrastructure (PID, 2011). The World Bank and many other Donors had come together with project initiatives in various economic sectors including the agricultural sector to assist Haiti in the rebuilding process and increase agricultural productivity to ensure food security to its population.
Current development projects been implemented in Haiti are targeting various economic sectors including agricultural development and rural extension. For example, the Strengthening Agriculture Public Services II Project (GAFSP - IDA) is designed to strengthen the role of MARNDR in providing agricultural support services. This component will enhance MARNDR's capacity to define and implement the National Agriculture Extension Strategy (PDVA) through carrying out institutional and organizational reforms within MARNDR at the national, departmental and local level; and also provide support for local agricultural extension and innovation services. It is also expected to strengthen the local provision of, and access to, agricultural support and extension services through the establishment of a Market Support Facility (MSF) and the strengthening of the MSF's institutional capacity (PID, 2011).
1. Major Institutions Providing Extension/advisory Services in the Country
The public sector is represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR), its decentralized structures including: Board of Agricultural Department, Municipal Agricultural Office (BAC), research and training centers, the State University of Haiti, and the National School of Agronomy. These institutions provide extension services through various departments and institutes some of which are listed below:
Private Sector Firms
The private sector played an important and innovative role in supporting humanitarian assistance to Haiti right after the 2010 earthquake. Although small and fragmented, Haitian private sector can become involve in agriculture, and now it has an equally important role to play in helping Haiti achieve an accelerated economic trajectory. The private sector developed the commercialization of inputs in the 1990’s when the public sector decreased the direct interventions in the market. However, after the 2008 storms and the last emergency programs, the role of the private sector in the commercialization of inputs (especially fertilizers, seeds, and agricultural tools) has again diminished (MARNDR, 2010). The productive capacity of Haiti’s small farmers is crucial in helping the country to overcome its crises and avert food shortages. Haiti needs the private sector now more than ever to help rebuild both the country and the livelihoods of poor rural farmers. Private sector firms are already involved in agricultural extension and advisory services delivery to rural farmers through farmers training on new technologies and supply of farm inputs. But for poor rural people to increase food production and improve their lives, a public-private partnership must be backed up with the right policies and support for rural communities.
Non-Governmental Organizations and other Donors
Since the 1950s, NGOs have (partially) filled the void left by the government of Haiti in rural areas by providing basic development services (education, health, agricultural extension). Some NGOs explicitly work toward the empowerment and organization of the poor (PID, 2011). However, many provide basic services, such as health and agricultural extension, and avoid direct efforts at popular organization. There are both international NGOs wholly dependent on external international donor funds and local NGOs including both expatriates and local missionary groups and local peasant-led cooperatives. These NGOs have been successful in building strong local organizations that are instrumental in the transfer of agricultural information to its members.
Non-Governmental Organizations play a central role in the world of farming (service funds, supply of essential basic services, reinforcement of rural communities, etc.). They dispose of human resources and relatively important material guaranteeing the execution of their program and project plans. A firm partnership will allow them to converge together toward the durable development of the sector. However, because of past problems given that NGOs have historically operated independently of the government, many NGOs have developed a phobia of cooperation with the government or MARNDR. Haiti’s reconstruction and recovery process will take decades and will require the involvement of every government sector in the country, and many local and international humanitarian and development NGOs.
Locally- based NGOs, frequently lack regular and adequate levels of financing. They also have weak administrative systems and have limited access to qualified technical assistance. Whereas, international Agency Support for local NGOs, several international agencies (both bilateral government agencies and private NGOs) provide funding and technical assistance to local NGOs rather than directly implementing projects. Organizations using this approach include Helvetas, Fonds d'Aide et de Cooperation (FAC) (France), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Canadian international Development Agency (CIDA), and the Inter-American Foundation (IAF). These organizations focus on strengthening the local institutions by using technical assistance. Some of the NGOs working directly in the agricultural sector and local extension services or provide funding and technical assistance includes:
Farmer Based Organizations and Cooperatives
Community groups are the foundation for rural development activities and farmers are known to organizing themselves at local level into groups, associations and cooperatives around common interest like agricultural production to facilitate access to input and farm credit. In Haiti, farmers are organized into associations or cooperatives that operate as true partners in development programs and projects. As such these associations can build, as it has been witnessed in the last few years, the beginning of professionalization in a sub-sector like agriculture that responds to real concerns of farmers. These organization structures will always be implicated in the planning, financing, execution, and evaluation of activities of those programs and projects. A list of some commodity-based or community-based associations in Haiti is given as follows:
Enabling (or Disabling) Environment.
With the exception of some of the large irrigated
valleys, Haiti’s geography is mountainous (80 percent of the surface) and does
not lend itself well to production of field crops (28 percent is arable land).
Furthermore, the natural and agricultural ecosystems and the livelihoods of
inhabitants are under threat from several sources, including deforestation,
soil erosion, increased intensity and impact of flooding, and unregulated
livestock grazing (PID, 2011). In the past four years the country has been hit
by tragic events among which a series of hurricanes
and tropical storms and the earthquake of January 12th, 2010, which
devastated the capital, caused an exodus of a large number of people to rural
area and destroyed many infrastructure. The number of people thought to be food
insecure has increased dramatically. Haiti’s agricultural productivity hinges
on a myriad of bold policy initiative, and the difficult
context confronted by the actors of the agro-industrial private, formal and
informal sector are far from been hopeless. Fortunately, there are initiatives
that can be an encouraging sign for the implementation of a public action
allowing to alleviate the constraints to which these operators are submitted
and to create conditions so that they can be profitable on a long term. Haiti
occupies a central position in the U.S. initiated Feed the Future investment plan.
Invigorated in a sense by the MARNDR, NGOs (both local and international) and
many associations of producers have engaged in a movement of
professionalization, meaning the acquisition of specific expertise in the
branch of the given sub-sector. Haiti can achieve great success in reducing
food insecurity if all development agencies in the country effectively collaborate
in the execution of their respective development programs.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension
There are important gains from using
Information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture. ICT allows
information generated by researchers to be more efficiently accessed by
extension staff and transferred to farmers. With the introduction of personal
computers, mobile phones and internet service around the world and in Haiti,
ICT technologies are being used to boost rural development. Despite demonstrable economic gains
worldwide from ICTs in agriculture, Haiti still lacks a national ICT policy. It
is imperative that the government take a lead to build a proper ICT network in
the country whose development landscape has been dominated by NGOs. There are
indications that Haitian people are ready to take advantage of the new
development tools as presented in a 2009 World
Bank statistics report that indicated that 36.4 percent of the population of
Haiti own and operate a mobile phone, and 10 percent of the population had access
to internet in 2009.
Another wakeup call came from the
recent introduction of the e-Sourcebook by the World Bank in a ceremony
organized for the government of Haiti and other actors involve in agricultural
development during which presenters provided development
practitioners and governments with examples of where ICT in agriculture has
been used, challenges and lessons learned using ICT, and guidelines on project
development. It also attempts to address how ICT can be mainstreamed into
agricultural interventions, research and entrepreneurship (Kwasi Addom, 2012). As an example
of ICT use in agricultural extension example, iFormBuilder
is currently being used by catholic Relief Services in a number of remote
communities in Haiti to facilitate data sharing and reporting.
Training for Extension Professionals
In Haiti, formal training of agricultural professionals is provided by mainly government institutions at various levels. Basic agricultural training is provided through regional training centers. The training of medium level management staff takes place within agricultural schools such as Agricultural College of Artibonite Valley (EMAVA), College of Development of Hinche (EMDH), College of Agro forestry (EMAF). The University of Agriculture of Damien and the University of Production and Animal Health deliver bachelor, master and doctoral degrees in agriculture related fields. No formal agricultural extension degree program exists at these universities and colleges. However, most agricultural projects provide agricultural extension training to their staff without much intervention from the government. While many development programs have been able to develop and implement interesting and useful agricultural programs for both farmers and extension agents, the lack of a long term strategy limits the effectiveness of their programs.
With regard to in-service training, towards the end of the 1970’s through the beginning of 1990s, agricultural research centers were set up as research, training and development centers. These centers were created to develop new technologies and disseminate agricultural information to farmers. In addition, these centers participated in the formation and in-service training for many agricultural staff including lower level and higher level management and technical staff as well as farmers and students. Unfortunately these support services that came from research centers are practically inexistent today. The reestablishment of these services on a decentralized basis is highly desirable following the recent devastation of the agricultural infrastructure of the country (MARNDR, 2010).
Kwasi Addom, B. 2012. The World bank Launches e-Sourcebook on Ag. January 20, 2012.
Retrieved on January 31st 2012 from : http://agriculture.gbiportal.net/2012/01/20/the-world-bank-launches-e-sourcebook-on-ag/
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National Agricultural Investment Plan. Main Document. http://www.gafspfund.org/gafsp/sites/gafspfund.org/files/Documents/Haiti_NationalAgricultureInvestmentPlan.pdf
PID. 2011. Project Information Document (PID) Concept Stage: Strengthening Agriculture
Public Services. Republic of Haiti. Report No.:AB6084 http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/DC1BBFE3EC786EB6852577DC005A6C05-Full_Report.pdf
White, A. 1994. Policy Lessons from History and Natural Resource Projects in Rural Haiti.
Working Paper No. 17, 58 Pages, November 1994. USAID. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNABU097.pdf
Wolrd Bank. 2011. Relaunching Agriculture: Strengthening Agriculture Public Services II
Project (GAFSP – IDA. Project information document concept stage. Report No. AB6084. November 11, 2011: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/DC1BBFE3EC786EB6852577DC005A6C05-Full_Report.pdf