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Farmer standing in front of his farmland in Yemen
| Impact Stories

Building Back from the Brink: Why Agriculture Holds the Key 

Photo: FAO

When Haiti’s earthquake hit in January 2010, aftershocks rocked the country for days. Thousands died or were displaced in the disaster. With heavy dependence on imported foods, political and social insecurity and a fragmented agricultural sector, food security became a major challenge. 

Humanitarian aid poured in, but, for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the focus was on creating sustained systems for improved income and food security—rather than providing immediate assistance. Working closely with local government, as well as multilateral organizations including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), GAFSP forged a coordinated public-private partnership that trained smallholder farmers, while also linking them to markets. The resulting efforts have created a system where Haitian farmers will supply fresh fruits and vegetables to leading hotels and businesses, while also generating better income and greater food security for themselves and their families. 

Through support with irrigation equipment, high-quality seeds and technology at subsidized costs, as well as additional training provided by GAFSP, these farmers will be able to supply top markets, including the 175-room Marriott hotel in Port-au-Prince, with cabbages, peppers, lettuce, honeydew and other local foods.

Channeling funds to build back stronger

This transformative GAFSP approach, with country-led public and private sector investment to raise agricultural productivity and link smallholders with new opportunities, is a vital complement to humanitarian aid during emergencies. Today, across Haiti, more than 35,000 farmers have benefited from coffee, cocoa, agroforestry gardens, horticulture, and rice production. Agroforestry packages have led to a 63% income gain among famers. 

This case illustrates that, while humanitarian responses are critical during crises, they are never a long-term solution. With the right support and tools, farmers –often on the frontlines of crises and disproportionately affected by disasters, including climate change– can themselves drive change, economic recovery, and income opportunities. Supporting agricultural infrastructure and farmer enterprises is therefore critical for lasting food security and long-term recovery. This must be at the core of any emergency response plans, equipping communities to mitigate future disasters. 

Supporting farmers despite conflict, fragility, and violence 

Leveraging public and private sector funds in agriculture, to tackle hunger and malnutrition by 2030, was at the core of the G-7 Leaders’ Declaration at Elmau in 2015. GAFSP’s inclusive model brings together civil society organizations, recipient countries, development agencies, and donors. It combines public and private sector investment to support smallholder farmers along the entire agricultural value chain, with support from Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom. From small-scale to large country grants and private sector investments in agriculture and food systems, over the last 10 years, GAFSP has channeled US$1.7 billion in over 45 low-income countries, including in fragile, violent, or conflict-afflicted situations.  

For instance, in Mali, conflict has disrupted food supply chains, and climate change is impacting irrigation options for farmers. Yet the country is among West Africa’s largest mango producers, and one of the fastest growing exporters in the world. In 2015, Mali produced 600,000 tons of mangoes, yet only 6 per cent of the country’s mangos were exported, with the biggest company, CEDIAM, operating under capacity. 

Through a GAFSP private sector investment, the company can now upgrade its production facility, adding 1,000 smallholder mango farmers to its already 2,000-strong farmer supply chain. The project also supports 300 direct and indirect jobs, strengthening Mali's important agricultural sector, which accounts for more than 80% of livelihoods. Farmers will be trained to improve their farming techniques, intercropping other crops to boost incomes and diversify production, protecting them against future shocks. 

Strengthening communities for long-term resilience  

In Yemen, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world continues to unfold. More than 24 million people –some 80% of the population– are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. The Government of Yemen applied for a GAFSP grant to equip rural households with startup packages of seeds, poultry, and small ruminants to continue production, assisted by the World Bank and United Nations agencies. 

Resuming crop and livestock production brings communities nutritious foods which they would not otherwise have access to. And, it enables them to earn an income which can be used to pay for other needs, like schoolbooks or healthcare. Private sector companies have been supported to manufacture feed blocks, generating business development. GAFSP is also working with partners to explore dairy and horticulture agribusinesses potential.

"We have really seen that these investments in agriculture are relevant to the needs of communities, and can build long-term resilience. For instance, efforts to rehabilitate water facilities involve all members of the community from different groups in discussions and activities, strengthening social relationships, resolving conflicts and bringing in income.” 

–Rufiz Vakhid Chirag-Zade, World Bank Project team lead

Not only are farmers the main producers of our global food supply, they are often most affected by hunger and food insecurity, further disrupting supplies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more critical than ever to invest in agriculture to prevent another food crisis. With the G7 Ministerial meeting taking place on May 5, there is unprecedented opportunity to support smallholder farmers, and transform agriculture and food systems for a more resilient future for all.


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