Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the world, with 55 percent of the population living below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. Agriculture is central to the Haitian economy, employing approximately 60 percent of the population and serving as the primary source of income in rural areas. As such, agricultural development will necessarily be central to Haiti’s long-term efforts to grow its economy, reduce poverty and hunger, and promote a healthy population.
Haitian agricultural production, processing and marketing has been stagnant or declining for 50 years, and it currently accounts for 25 percent of GDP—down from 40 percent in the 1990s despite the fact that other sectors have not grown substantially. Population growth has increased the annual demand for food by about 2 percent per year, but the supply of food has only grown by 0.4 percent, creating dependence on imports and causing a net reduction in per capita food consumption. The prolonged stagnation of the rural Haitian economy helps to explain Haiti’s entrenched poverty, food insecurity, rural to urban migration, malnutrition, and environmental degradation.
Haitian food security has consequently been declining at an alarming pace. Haiti imports more than 55 percent of its food needs (see Annex A). The average Haitian caloric intake is 73 percent of the daily minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. Before the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, Haiti already had one of the heaviest burdens of hunger and malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere: 40 percent of households were undernourished (3.8 million people) and 30 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition. Stunting affected 24 percent of children under five and acute malnutrition affected 9 percent of those under five years of age.1 In the country as a whole, the incidence of chronic and acute malnutrition among children worsened from 2000 to 2005, according to data from the most recent Demographic Health Surveys.