By Chris Jeanty
Summary 100+ construction positions Cost: 300 million HTG or 4.4 million USD Expected increase in annual production: 14% or 23,000 HTG (330 USD) High economic structural importance to the Haitian economy
Since first being elected, President Jovenal Moise made fulfilling his “Caravan of Change” campaign promise to reinvigorate the Arbitonite and Arbitonite Valley with additional infrastructure projects and rehabilitation of aging facilities. The region has over 30,000 hectares of previously irrigated land and is the largest rice producing area in the country, at 75% to 80% of the rice in the country or 230,000 metric tons. The stated goal of this project is to reverse declining annual yields, retain performance levels of earlier decades, and increase available irrigated land to 50,000 hectares.
The list of improvements are as follows:
- Improvement of 87 km of core irrigation canals. One such canal is the Coursin Canal which is a 14 km that irrigates nearly 5,000 hectares of land alone.
- Repair of over 100 km of roads.
- Mechanically clearing 187 km of drainage canals and extending these canals to previously non-beneficial areas.
- Improvement to the Canneau Dam located in Verettes. This Dam provides 90% of the valley’s irrigated land.
- Sanitation to swamps and floodplain areas.
- Technical Assistance to the planters.
If prior estimates of yield per dollar spent in the region are still .76, then the expected value of returns will be less than each dollar spent. However, this investment is not solely a financial project but a social project as well. The land in this region is mostly farmed by peasant farmers, and those investments would go to greatly improving their potential output and their quality of life better than alternative forms of assistance, such as charity or government welfare. Arguably, however, a mixture of these three may be most appropriate.
Despite the laudable effort by President Moise and his initiative, the amount of investment dollars dedicated is only a fraction of what is Travis J. Lybbert of University California Davis estimates is needed. His figures state that the actual amount required for the region to be closer to 3.9 billion HTG (57 million USD). President Moise’s initiative comes in at a woeful 7% of those estimates.
Whatever the size of the investment, maximizing the gains of this and future investment projects in the agricultural sector of Haiti will require the growth and coordination of the varying farmers’ associations, improving access credit and insurance, and increased access technical assistance. The greatest need after the development of land, is the development of the people charged to till and produce from that land. Haiti’s current dependency on foreign(US) rice, where as much as 70% to 80% of its current demand is being satisfied by imports is unsustainable, especially given only 3 decades ago, Haiti previously produced over 90% of its rice demand domestically.