First free zone with agroecological practices in Haiti

The first Agricultural Free Zone, called Nourribo, is located in Trou du Nord, in the northeastern part of Haiti, dedicated to organic production in the countrywas established after the signing of an agreement between government and business representatives.

The agreement — signed by Wilson Laleau, acting Minister of Trade and Industry and President of the National Council of Free Zones, Rode Préval, Director General of the Directorate of Free Zones and Jovenel Moïse, CEO of Agitrans, a local company that will be in charge of the project — is expected to create nearly 3,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs in the next five years.

Laleau underlined that the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe “is willing to mentor and encourage this kind of rapid investment in all sectors,” and has invited “other promoters to present structural projects in agriculture and in many others sectors.”

Haiti as one of the poorest nations in the world suffers from food insecurity due to soil erosion and soil infertility caused by bimodal rainfall pattern, low fertility soil types and its mountainous topography. Only 58 percent of Haiti’s over 10 million people have access to an adequate amount of food while 30 percent of harvests go to waste as mango exporter Jean-Maurice Buteau pointed out. “Poor handling and non-existent storage facilities and transport networks are the main reasons for this,” said Buteau to the press.

The importance of small farming

Agriculture has long been Haiti’s mainstay although nowadays it contributes just 25 percent of GDP. Critics claim that this is due to its underfunding. In 2009-2010 only 7 percent of Haiti’s budget was allocated to this sector.

Various civil society organizations such as Haiti Support Group, Hope for Haiti and Farm Haiti believe that small farming is the only way to ensure food security and food sovereignty.

The Nourribio project aims at producing approximately 20,000 tones of organically produced bananas and other vegetables. Due to its status as a Free Zone it has to export 70 percent of its production in order to benefit from tax concessions and customs reserved for Free Zones.

According to the fair trade approach of the project 20 percent of profits are supposed to be redistributed to small farmers who present about 60 percents of Haiti’s population. Préval stressed that Nourribio is seeking to increase the incomes of small farmers in order to improve their purchasing power and quality of life.

Source | Latinamerica Press