GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida will help tackle food insecurity in one of the poorest countries in the world, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Global office was awarded a $13.7 million grant by USAID as part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. The five-year grant will be used to strengthen the human and institutional capacity in Haiti to help farmers and agribusiness gain access to better information, technologies, and services. UF/IFAS will be involved in student and professional training, technical assistance and identifying innovative research and Extension models that work for the diverse agriculture landscape in Haiti.
“High population growth rates, degraded environmental resources, the recent earthquake and limited research in agriculture have created formidable challenges to food production and food security in Haiti,” said UF/IFAS Global Director Walter Bowen. “Investment and support of the public institutions, private organizations and businesses that serve small holder farmers and represent Haiti’s diverse agriculture sector is essential to jumpstart economic recovery, and increase economic and food security.”
UF/IFAS Global has partnered with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Louisiana State University and Partners of the Americas to help develop and strengthen an agricultural innovation system that will provide real solutions in Haiti. Partners of the Americas is an agency that is implementing the USAID Nutrition Security Project in Haiti.
Michael Wyzan, a USAID Haiti official directing economic growth programs noted: “This Feed the Future initiative grant will advance our partnering with the Government of Haiti and other Haitian institutions to improve agricultural performance in the country. We look forward to working with the University of Florida to support Haitian-led development and adoption of agricultural technologies, as well as innovative, community-based extension models”.
Over the next five years, many of the proposed activities will create a stronger and resilient agriculture sector, said Rosalie Koenig, an associate director of UF/IFAS Global. “Our initial activities will address the short-term needs of Haiti through research and training activities,” she said. “We plan to make long-term investments aimed at modernizing and fostering partnerships among the Haitian institutions. The project will increase the efficiency of individuals and programs that focus on agricultural research, education and Extension.”
The team of researchers, including Extension educators, economists and evaluators, will look for ways to engage farming communities in adopting improved technologies, said Paul Monaghan, an assistant professor in the department of agricultural education and communication. “We will use an innovative approach of mapping social and institutional networks, comparing different Extension outreach methods already in use and creating a classification of farm types that will make technology adoption more effective,” Monaghan said.
The grant will allow researchers to create a project that includes all farmers, is customized to regional differences and promotes gender equality, Koenig said. “Most important is that the project will be a Haitian-driven partnership of public and private entities involved in agriculture, a consortium of three U.S. land-grant institutions with a long history of work in Haiti, and an agency that focuses on food security.”
UF/IFAS has a long history of work in Haiti with more than 50 years of research and outreach work with the community. Most recently, USAID funds supported eight students from Haiti to earn their master’s degrees in agriculture at UF in 2013.