[Port-au-Prince] – Gary is a farmer residing in Terrier Rouge, Haiti, and last year he had a lot of problems finding food for his cows, as well as his other livestock. Because of the 2019 drought, thousands of farmers lost their crops, and over 3,000 heads of cattle died from a lack of food and water. “We had to buy sugar cane; we had to buy feed in the Dominican Republic so that we could keep our livestock alive,” says Gary. The struggle to find food and water for these already vulnerable animals demonstrates the challenges of the livestock systems in the area and contributes to the reduction of income for many families. In Northern Haiti, communities have experienced a severe drought for the past few years. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Reforestation Project is supporting farmers to produce and store food such as grass or hay to improve the health of their animals, in order to adapt to the shifting weather patterns that impact food production.
U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, Michele J. Sison noted, “I am proud of the U.S. government’s deep engagement, through USAID, to equip Haitian farmers with the latest agricultural techniques. These Haitian farmers and their families are already applying these newly acquired skills to their individual farms and are now seeing results with their animals in a short period of time. When Haitian farmers prosper, all Haitians prosper.”
Through partnerships with livestock managers associations and regional universities, the USAID Reforestation Project provided 8 demonstration plots ranging from 1 to 2 hectares each, to serve as training grounds for farmers to learn how to produce nutritious and fast-growing crops and maintain food stock for their animals. To date, over 1,000 trained farmers produced 731 hay bales of 70 kg each, sufficient to feed about 243 head of cattle for 30 days.
In light of COVID-19, additional support is being provided to protect animals, as the Project recently launched, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, a deworming campaign across 11 communes in the North and North-East to protect livestock from external and internal parasites. Project Director Michelet Fontaine stated, “Our achievements thus far are a direct result of the active engagement and collaboration of Haitian government ministries, local authorities, and farmers.”
During the month of June, the first phase of the campaign covered 38,286 cows, goats, horses, and donkeys belonging to 9,858 farmers. Dorvil Wilmer, a livestock breeder in Terrier Rouge believes, “If the goats are healthy, we are healthy.”
Protecting the health and well-being of livestock in Northern Haiti is an important activity of the USAID Reforestation Project in order to improve farmers’ income and reduce the pressure on trees and natural resources. The Project also assisted with the initiation of 7 commercial hay production units, offering farmers new business opportunities. USAID Haiti Mission Director Christopher Cushing added, “This project is providing skills and business opportunities that increase income for Haitian farmers. During the drought season more animals will survive.”