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Smallholder Farmers Alliance Blog


The FAO Must do More to Promote Food as a Basic Human Right

Green shoots … Roadside vegetable stalls in Mumbai. The FAO is placing a renewed emphasis on food security as a human right. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

By Olivier De Schutter / Guardian Poverty Matters Blog

Should the UN's leading food security agency prioritise helping countries boost their agricultural production with subsidised chemical fertiliser, or promote ecological farming practices? Should it help countries protect themselves against import surges, or open them to the global marketplace? Should it work exclusively with national ministries of agriculture, or demand inter-ministerial and civil society participation?

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Charcoal Making 101

Philippe is typical of farmers throughout Haiti who supplement their income by producing charcoal.
The pile of wood in front of him will sell for around US$10 as charcoal when he is finished.

We all know that Haiti runs on charcoal. I ran across a farmer last week in Haiti who agreed to show me how it is made. He introduced himself as Philippe. In front of him in the photo above is a pile of wood he had gathered, and next to it is a pile of green leaves. His technique was to put the leaves on top of the wood and then add a thin layer of earth on top of that. Philippe then made a small hole at the base of this construction and lit the fire, explaining that it would continue to burn for two to three days. The combination of leaves and earth makes the enclosure into a kind of kiln so that the wood, because of the high heat and minimum oxygen, turns to charcoal rather than to ash. Philippe told me he expects to get around US$10 when he sells the resulting charcoal in the local market. 

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How Agroforestry Schemes Can Improve Food Security in Developing Countries

Agroforestry has the potential to significantly improve food security in developing countries. Photograph: David J Slater/Getty ImagesCaspar van Vark / reprinted from Guardian Professional

Agroforestry – the integration of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock systems – has strong potential in addressing problems of food insecurity in developing countries. Done well, it allows producers to make the best use of their land, can boost field crop yields, diversify income, and increase resilience to climate change.

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Food Insecurity in Haiti

A field of beans in Haiti. SFA photo by William Charles Moss.

There are close to 10 million people in Haiti, 6 million of whom live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. There are an estimated 600,000 farms in Haiti, and all but 3 percent of those are small-scale operations with an average of 1.5 hectares, or just under 4 acres. With a ratio of one farm for every 100 people, Haiti has one of the highest farm-to-population rates in the world. Logic would suggest this is enough farms and farmers to feed the nation, and up to the mid-1980’s that was the case. But Haiti now imports close to sixty percent of all the food it consumes. At the same time farmers are suffering because they can’t compete with the flood of cheap imported food, much of it subsidized by taxpayers in foreign lands.

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Planting Trees in Haiti With the Smallholder Farmers Alliance

Click image to download pdf version of this photo essay.

The Smallholder Farmers Alliance plants one million trees a year in Haiti. We have put together a photo essay that tells the inspiring story of how 2,000 small-scale farmers and their families go about planting these trees. Through images, we show how they grow the trees in nurseries and then transplant the seedlings onto their own and community land. The trees are used for food, timber, soil stabilization, fodder and fuel.

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Exit Strategy Aid Shows Promise in Haiti

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Three years ago a development expert (me), an agronomist (Timote Georges) and a shoe and apparel company (Timberland) set out to plant trees in Haiti. Despite a background in forestry, I had been working for five years in Haiti without putting that experience to use. Timote had been working with small-scale farmers planting trees, but was disappointed with the lack of tangible results. The Timberland Company had made a commitment to plant five million trees before 2015 and was looking for a partner for this initiative. The result of our collaboration is an ongoing experiment that is showing early signs of significant potential for Haiti and the rest of the developing world. I call it “exit strategy aid.”

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Fences Alive and Well and Living in Haiti

SFA member Gustave Laurient prepares to weave the tall branches of a Moringa tree into the
shorter Jatropha (identified by large leaves) to make a living fence to protect his field near Rofile, Haiti.
SFA photo by Hugh Locke.

We take for granted that when you need a fence, you either buy the material and build it yourself or you hire someone to do the job. For small-scale (also known as “smallholder”) farmers in countries like Haiti, that is not an option. It is simply too expensive. Even something as seemingly frugal as barbed wire strung between posts made from tree branches is beyond their reach. Haitian farmers have come up with a local variation on something that has a long history in many parts of the world: living fences.

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Timberland Helps Haiti Plant 2 Million Trees, and Counting

A farmer plants a tree in Haiti, as part of the Timberland and Smallholder Farmers Alliance tree planting
project in the rural area of Gonaives. SFA photo by Sebastian Petion.

Self-financing model of agroforestry brings sustainable benefits to farmers, communities and the natural environment in Haiti

STRATHAM, NH, January 28, 2013 – Three years after committing to plant 5 million trees in five years, Timberland shares progress of improved environmental, economic and social conditions in the rural region near Gonaives, Haiti.  In partnership with a local non-governmental organization, the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, Timberland supports an agroforestry program to train Haitian farmers to improve crop yields – and has planted 2.2 million trees along the way.

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