Agriculture plays a dominant role in the Haitian economy. The quality and productivity of local farming are constrained by the dominance of small-scale subsistence farms (average farm size is 0.5 Ha), weak or non-existent extension services, insufficiently developed food supply chains, limited access to rural credit markets, a weak animal and plant national system, and inability to meet increasingly important food safety standards (PID, 2011). Three categories of actors and operators are directly involved in the flow of activities or in the definition of policies affecting agricultural production and extension advisory services in Haiti: the public sector represented by different ministries, public institutions, and territorial communities; the farmers, producers, rural entrepreneurs and their organizations; and NGOs, consulting firms, universities, and agro-enterprise business stores. The Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) is the leading public institution that operates through its decentralized structures including: Board of Agricultural Department, Municipal Agricultural Office (BAC), research and training centers, and the independent entities under its supervision (MARNDR,2010).
A Brief History of Public Extension Policies, Resources and Advisory Activities in Haiti
Since the 1990s, MARNDR has been in charge of establishing agriculture sector policy, directing and coordinating public investments in the sector, coordinating the interventions of the different actors involved and ensuring a minimum of basic agriculture public services especially in terms of agriculture research and extension, sanitary protection, training, and information in the sector. The public sector agricultural policy leans on the urgencies of contractual services provided by private sector (PME, NGO, consultants, other projects) and ensures that contracts are executed at all levels within the decentralized services of the MARNDR. However, some of the institutional challenges faced by MARNDR in the context of agriculture research and extension are twofold: a lack of a centralized agriculture research and extension planning function; and the difficulty in coordinating a myriad of available but insufficient free agriculture extension and training services offered by NGOs working in rural areas (MARNDR, 2010).
In the past decades, agricultural programs have not been able to provide necessary resources and support for a sustainable increase of productivity in the agricultural sector. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the country, and in particular the agriculture sector, has suffered three major exogenous systemic shocks in recent years: (i) the sharp increase in international food, fuel and fertilizer prices; (ii) the loss of farmers’ assets and agricultural output due to the recent hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008; and (iii) the earthquake of January 12th , 2010, which devastated the capital, caused an exodus of around 600,000 people to rural areas, and significantly damaged urban and sub-urban infrastructure (PID, 2011). The World Bank and many other Donors had come together with project initiatives in various economic sectors including the agricultural sector to assist Haiti in the rebuilding process and increase agricultural productivity to ensure food security to its population.
Current development projects been implemented in Haiti are targeting various economic sectors including agricultural development and rural extension. For example, the Strengthening Agriculture Public Services II Project (GAFSP - IDA) is designed to strengthen the role of MARNDR in providing agricultural support services. This component will enhance MARNDR's capacity to define and implement the National Agriculture Extension Strategy (PDVA) through carrying out institutional and organizational reforms within MARNDR at the national, departmental and local level; and also provide support for local agricultural extension and innovation services. It is also expected to strengthen the local provision of, and access to, agricultural support and extension services through the establishment of a Market Support Facility (MSF) and the strengthening of the MSF's institutional capacity (PID, 2011).