News release: AREA Project to Leave a Long-Lasting Legacy
The 5-year USAID-funded project sparked collaboration to help strengthen the capacity of Haitians to improve the country’s critical agricultural sector
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It is an international project created with the belief that U.S. agricultural researchers and educators can best help Haiti by working collaboratively with their Haitian counterparts to nourish the country’s resource-limited academic and research community.
Now, as the five-year Feed the Future Haiti Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole (AREA) project winds down, its organizers and supporters are implementing strategic plans to sustain its many accomplishments.
AREA was launched in 2015 under a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAD) and a consortium of three U.S. agricultural universities led by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The project was designed to boost Haiti’s agricultural sector by supporting scholars and leaders who can help modernize farming, reduce food insecurity and shape its future. AREA did this by carrying out a wide array of agricultural research and extension programs – all aligned with the needs and priorities identified by its Haitian partners, which include the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) and Haiti’s top seven agricultural colleges, including the Faculté d’Agronomie et de Médecine Vétérinaire (FAMV).
“One unique aspect of the AREA project is that from the start it has been a Haitian-driven project,” said Lemâne Delva, Ph.D., a Haitian native who serves as AREA’s director of research. He noted AREA’s Haitian-based researchers led or supported all of AREA’s research programs, including: researching plant diseases and pests that cripple important crops such as beans, plantains and corn; training farmers to adapt to increasingly variable climate conditions; collaborating with institutions of higher education to improve agricultural teaching and learning; and studying ways to improve agricultural advisory services and fully incorporate women in the agricultural sector.
While the project officially ends Dec. 31, the results of its work will continue to bear fruit in a myriad of ways. Here are some examples.
- Researchers and students at laboratories on two university campuses and two research centers now have new microscopes and other equipment and the training they need to better diagnose diseases and pests that are harming Haiti’s crops.
- By yearend, all 25 AREA-supported Haitian scholars who earned Master of Science degrees from agricultural universities in the United States will have returned to Haiti to use their new skills, such as improving the fertility of Haiti’s depleted soils, breeding varieties of high-yielding crops and teaching the next generation agricultural students.
- Nearly 100 farm advisers have trained more than 1,000 farmers in a new approach introduced by AREA that can help them adapt to more variable climate and weather patterns and increase their resilience and incomes in the face of changing climate conditions.
- Almost 2,000 agricultural professionals, researchers, university students and professors – including a high percentage of women – have benefited from participating in one or more of dozens of training events and workshops AREA held on a wide-array of technical and practical topics, including everything from how to build a solar-powered weather station to what entrepreneurs need to know to run a food-processing enterprise and how to best apply fertilizer and pesticides on a farm.
- Every day, internet-enabled weather stations AREA installed at several rural centers for sustainable development (CRDD) and universities provide meteorological data that farmers and researchers need to better monitor the weather and plan farming activities.
- Hundreds of faculty members at Haiti’s leading agricultural universities will continue to benefit from professional development programs sparked by AREA’s Faculty Development Academy, which led to improvements in the way many professors prepare for classes, write syllabi, instruct students and grade their work.
- AREA partner Haitian Foundation for Sustainable Agricultural Development (FONHDAD), which runs the Bas Boën CRDD, will soon begin selling to farmers advanced beans developed by AREA that yield at least two times the average now harvested by Haitian farmers.
- Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture officials and farm advisory service providers stand to gain insights they can use from a large-scale research project that AREA launched to evaluate three models of extension and determine the best ways to transfer new technologies, tools and high-yielding varieties of crops to Haitian farmers.
While the tangible results are important and compelling, AREA also can count on less obvious signs of its success – namely, increased collaboration and understanding between researchers in the United States and in Haiti, said Rose Koenig, Ph.D., the principal investigator the project and Agronomy faculty member at UF. AREA provided two notable events for collaboration: international research conferences in 2018 and 2020 at which hundreds of scholars, researchers, Haitian government officials and agricultural experts gathered to learn about the latest research to improve Haiti’s teaching institutions and its agricultural sector.
“By its nature, much of our success has been in bringing the right people together people and tapping their talents and sharing information,” Koenig said. “We’ve found this is the best way to spark collaborative programs in the agricultural sector. Our hope is that the relationships built between members of our project team, university professors in Haiti and the United States, our students and other key stakeholders will continue for many years to come.”
About the AREA project: The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences leads a consortium of U.S. universities to support its Feed the Future initiative in Haiti. The consortium’s mission is to help Haiti develop and strengthen its system for agricultural innovation, and to increase production, household income and food security. The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global food and security initiative. For more information, visit https://area.ifas.ufl.edu
About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition. For more information, visit www.feedthefuture.org