Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack met with Haiti's Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Thomas Jacques, March 4 to emphasize USDA's ongoing commitment to help the Haitian agricultural sector recover from the devastating impact of the 2010 earthquake.
The visit is part of Minister Jacques' week-long trip to the United States to meet with various U.S. government agencies and other U.S. organizations about Haitian ministry priorities. Minister Jacques is traveling with a delegation that includes Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture members as part of the U.S.-Brazil Trilateral Initiative on Cooperation.
During the visit, Secretary Vilsack and Minister Jacques discussed food security and topics on trade. The minister also received a presentation on USDA's market information systems capacity building in Haiti, just one example of USDA projects initiated after the earthquake.
Haiti was already a fragile and poor country when the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit. The devastation killed more than 300,000 people and greatly reduced economic activities. In the aftermath of the disaster, USDA gradually transitioned from response to recovery efforts.
USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) currently has several food aid projects in Haiti that are funded by the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition and the Food for Progress programs. Two ongoing McGovern-Dole projects in Haiti are supporting a nationwide school feeding program that includes rehabilitating schools, training teachers and school administrators, developing school gardens and providing take-home rations for children. USDA has donated commodities such as milled rice, pinto beans and vegetable oil to support the project. The Food for Progress program is building Haiti's trade capacity in food safety standards and improving farmers' access to credit through microcredit lending activities.
FAS also works with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help strengthen the ability of Haiti's agricultural ministry to deliver essential services to farmers. The continued effort to help rebuild Haiti is an example of USDA's long history of helping those in need.