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International Programs - Haiti Pilot Soil Survey Training Project

The Haiti Pilot Soil Survey Training Project

Prior to gaining independence from France in the early 19th century, Haiti produced more than half the world’s coffee, 40% of the sugar for France and Britain, and generated 40% of France's foreign trade. In the 1950s agriculture provided employment for 80% of Haiti’s labor force, contributed 50% of GDP, and 90% of exports. A growing population, limited support to the agricultural sector, a limited land base, low productivity, limited technology, insecure land tenure, and other factors led to increasing urban migration. By the late 1980s the sector employed 66% of the labor force, accounted for 35% of GDP and provided 24% of exports. Increased soil erosion, drought, deforestation, hurricanes, and the 2010 earthquake further exacerbated productivity declines. The 2012 agricultural sector contributions are estimated at 38% of employment and 26% of GDP.

Following the 2010 earthquake, President Obama directed U.S. Government agencies to identify ways to contribute toward Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction, and help the Haitian people build a more sustainable future. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) proposed a “Pilot Soil Survey and Training Initiative” project as a mechanism for improving household incomes through increased agricultural production, improved natural resource management and conservation, and better environmental stewardship.

By the end of the one-year project, senior Ministry officials and University of Haiti faculty will understand the value and applications of soil surveys. Technical staff will be trained and capable, and the Haitian government will support expanding the activities beyond the zone and life of the project.

Institutional partners include: the Ministry of Agriculture; the University of Haiti; the soils laboratory at the USAID-funded Bas Boen Centre for Sustainable Rural Development; and the Ministry of Public Works. Up to 60 Haitians will participate. Trainees include soils technicians, agronomists, GIS staff, soil database managers, soil conservation technicians, and extension agents who will work directly with farmers.

Haitian technical staff will learn soil survey design and application, soils analysis, and interpretation of soils and vegetative data. The Haitian soils cadre will be able to apply soils survey information to prepare practical interpretations and management recommendations for: crop selection, nutrient management, and increasing productivity; evaluating erosion hazards; identifying soil degradation, land use capability and limitations; recommending land-use management options, including infrastructure and urban development; and other applications.

The training will focus on a demonstration site of 3000 hectares (7400 acres), 35 km from Port au Prince. An estimated 500 farmers live in the survey area and will have access to general soils information and improved soils and crop management recommendations, based on the soils survey findings – demonstrating the value of soil survey information. The site will continue to serve as a valuable demonstration area after the completion of the project.

The project makes use of existing laboratory facilities where possible. The project covers the purchase of additional basic equipment as needed for the Haitian technical staff to conduct soils surveys, interpret the findings, and disseminate soils information in different formats and languages to end users.

By the end of the project, the Haitian cadre will be capable of training other Haitian technicians in soil survey and expand soil survey activities to other parts of the country as resources become available. The government of Haiti has committed to hiring the technicians who successfully complete the training, and to continue soil survey work in other watersheds based on national priorities.

February 2014