Growing Rice in Haiti

Haitian rice that has been cultivated in the country's fertile land for last 200 years has most likely origin in West Africa. Haiti was self sufficient in rice production till the middle of 1980's, thereafter, it dropped miserably. Since the beginning of the next decade, domestic production was outpaced by import. The main responsible factor identified for falling production is lower tariff on rice import by trade liberalization policies. At 3% import tariff, it is the lowest among all other nations in the Caribbean Community- it is cheaper to import than produce. This has left many already poor rural populations jobless.


Oxfam America, working with small-scale farmers in Haiti, is an extension of Oxfam International. It was established in 1970 for finding lasting solutions to hunger, poverty, and injustice. They led a delegation team of Haitian farmers and agronomists to Vietnam to examine the possibility of finding better methods that can be implemented for improving the method of rice cultivation and production in Haiti. They, after a six months of study, has been satisfied with one method named System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI requires less water, less seed and less fertilizer than the traditional techniques. It is a labor intensive approach that has to be followed painstakingly to achieve desired result. It has been experienced that proper application of SRI package can boost yield by 50 to 100%.

However, following the technique of SRI is not as easy as it is in Vietnam. Because, in Vietnam, there is a strong culture of cooperation among the farmers and government regulation makes water management, sharing, and irrigation easier. Haitians farmers working on adjacent plots hardly ever agree or cooperate each other. Also in Vietnam, they use herbicides to eliminate weeds in SRI plots. Further, the Vietnamese know the use of right seeds for the right soils. In Haiti, each of these aspects need further study. A four months study to observe the yield of two methods of rice cultivation--one SRI and another promoted by IRRI or International Rice Research Institute, has revealed that under certain circumstances the yields of both systems were similar. Despite of many challenges, the Haitian farmers are satisfied with the SRI method. They are encouraging others who are not using SRI.

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