FAO calls on donors to support plan for Haiti's rebirth

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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called on international donors to support a 700-million-U.S.-dollar investment plan in the agriculture sector drawn by the Haitian government to ensure the island's survival following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

The plan aims at rebuilding essential infrastructure, boosting food production and creating jobs in the nations' impoverished countryside in the next 18 months, the FAO said.

The Rome-based agency, together with the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture Cooperation, has signed an agreement with the Haitian authorities to support the plan.

"The food situation in Haiti was already very fragile before the earthquake and Haiti was highly dependent on food imports," said Alexander Jones, FAO Emergencies Response Manager in the island nation.

"With people moving back to the rural areas, growth in Haiti's agricultural sector is now an urgent priority and the Haitian government's plan does a very good job of laying down the immediate priorities," he said on Friday.

Almost 60 percent of Haitians lived in rural areas before the earthquake struck. More than 80 percent of the population survives on the razor-edge of poverty with less than two dollars a day.

The Haitian government estimates some 32 million U.S. dollars is needed now to buy urgent seeds, tools and fertilizers for farmers, so that they can begin planting in March for the spring planting season which usually accounts for 60 percent of Haiti's agricultural production.

FAO Director-general Jacques Diouf last week urged international aid coordination to support the Haitian farmers' resurgence.

Other short-term actions envisaged by the strategic plan include the repair of an important quake-damaged sugar refinery, protection of watersheds, reforestation, the rebuilding and reinforcing of collapsed riverbanks and damaged irrigation channels, and the rehabilitation of 600 kilometers of feeder roads.

The Haitian government has also recommended the acquisition of thousands of tons of cereal, pulses and vegetable seeds, produced domestically and abroad, tools and fertilizers and support to the livestock sector.

The FAO will start activities along these priorities with the funds received from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Spain and the agency' s own funds, but private donations are urgently needed to reach the 700-million-dollar plan target.

The FAO is leading the UN and NGO partners "cluster" ( coordination group) in agriculture.

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