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Haitian Agriculture Minister Gu Calls For Debt Relief

Delegates from Brazil, Canada, France and the United States attending IFAD Governing Council meeting express support for multilateral relief

18 February 2010, Rome The Haitian Agriculture Minister, Joanas Gu called for debt relief when he met with senior officials of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other agencies at the 33rd session of the Funds Governing Council.

With the G7 calling for debt forgiveness – and indications from several countries, including Brazil, Canada, France and the United States, that they are prepared to support such initiatives – IFAD is moving forward with a robust plan on total debt relief for the country.

The meeting, held yesterday, signalled IFADs commitment to ease this burden in order to rehabilitate and strengthen Haitis agriculture and rural sector in the wake of last months devastating earthquake.

In the 35 seconds that the earthquake lasted, Haiti lost 60 per cent of its GDP and created years of rebuilding for its people, said Kevin Cleaver, Associate Vice-President, Programmes at IFAD. IFAD, by canceling all debt, will give an impetus to build a more robust, diversified and capable agricultural sector in the country one that prior to the earthquake supported two-thirds of the population.

Josefina Stubbs, Director, Latin America and Caribbean division, reaffirmed their support to the Government of Haiti to help them meet the countrys medium- and long-term needs for agricultural development and food security.  IFADs immediate plans include ensuring that essential seeds and tools are on hand for the upcoming planting seasons and accelerating existing projects concentrated on sustainable production, income and employment generation.

  • Preliminary estimates suggest more than 260,000 people have fled or are fleeing the destroyed capital, increasing the pressure on already meager supplies of food and employment in the countryside.

  • IFAD designed a US$3.2 million post-earthquake support programme for food security and employment generation in the rural areas of south-western Haiti, which were most affected by the earthquake.

  • IFAD has been supporting Haitian farmers for more than 30 years particularly in times of great need. Less than two years ago, Haiti was devastated by four tropical storms that caused over US$200 million in damage to food crops at a time when the population was struggling to feed itself because of high food prices. In response, IFAD funded a special project to kick-start food production. As a consequence, the 2008 winter planting yielded US$5 million in bean crops, helping to improve both food security and the incomes of poor farmers. Along with FAO, IFAD will extend this program to help farmers distressed by the earthquake.

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