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The author is a journalist who has worked for the newspapers La Prensa (Panama) and ABC (Madrid, Spain). He has also worked in other UN agencies, such as UNDP and Unicef.
An increasing amount of the food used in WFP's food assistance operations in Haiti is bought from local farmers. It's a way of supporting the Haitian economy, while reducing food insecurity and malnutrition. WFP's calls for competitive bids go out to Haitian farmer organizations and end up benefiting farmers such as Serge Milius, who heads a smallholder farmer association in Fonds-Verettes. The most recent call, last November, was for 1,750 metric tons of rice for school meals.
WFP’s commitment in Haiti to increase the purchase of locally produced rice and maize has made a difference to smallholder farmers such as Serge Milius, 56, who lives in a remote area of the Artibonite region in Haiti.
As a member of the Farmers' Association of Verrettes, Milius sells his produce to WFP so that he and the farmer’s association have a secure market for their produce, a source of income and better food security. Currently the association is in its fourth contract with WFP.
During 2012, WFP purchased some 1,240 metric tons of locally produced rice. For 2013 to 2014, WFP wants to increase these figures to 3,000 metric tons of locally produced food – which includes rice – in an effort to have a higher impact on the Haitian economy.
Supporting local markets across the country has been a pillar of WFP’s strategy in Haiti. WFP is also working with the Ministry of Agriculture and other partners on a strategy to link the school meals programme with local agricultural production to create a sustainable market for small holder farmers.
With the extra revenue, the farmer’s association can invest in assets such as cows and fertilizers as well as better tools, which means better quality planting and better yields. “We capitalize and at the same time are able to get money to actually invest in our production so we can build a future for our business and our families,” says Serge Milius.
He points out that in the past, his association struggled to grow three metric tons of food per hectare, but thanks to the extra income and support, yields have increased. “In some cases, production can go up to 5 metric tons per hectare,” he said. “This makes a big difference to us.”
Working in agriculture is a family tradition, and WFP’s support has allowed Milius and the 90 members of the farmer association, of which 35 are women, to carry on in this work. Besides rice, the association also produces peas, maize and beans, which are sold at the local market.
WFP is entirely funded by voluntary donations. The food purchases from Milius and other Haitian farmers are possible thanks to the contributions made by the governments of Canada, France, Brazil and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR, in Spanish).