LIL Secures $2M USAID Award to Assist Haiti

posted on January 27, 2017 1:02pm

Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab secures nearly $2M USAID award to help feed Haiti after Hurricane Matthew devastates land

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Hurricane Matthew roared through the Caribbean before moving north to the southeastern U.S. in October 2016, leaving a path of devastation.

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Haiti’s southwest region, which has a strong history of bean production, was hit particularly hard. To help re-establish its agricultural production capacities to sustainably produce beans for household food and nutritional security in the future, Michigan State University secured a nearly $2 million award from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to Haiti.

The Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab (LIL) at MSU believes that a multi-season bean seed distribution effort is necessary for Haiti to regain a basic level of food and nutritional security and to re-establish agriculture production capacities to sustainably produce beans for household consumption into the future.

Through this hurricane relief initiative, entitled “Mwen Gen Pwa” (Haitian Creole for “I have beans”), LIL and its partners will distribute seed of improved high-yielding bean varieties to the region’s smallholder farmers devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

Bean seed was chosen because, as noted by Dr. Michael Wyzan, USAID Mission to Haiti, “Bean is a critical element of the diet in Haiti, so the U.S. Feed the Future initiative is supporting Hurricane Matthew recovery by funding the distribution of high quality bean seed, allowing farmers in the south and southwest to produce food and income.”

Speedy procurement and delivery of seed were critical for the success of the project. In late 2016, 202.5 MT of improved varieties of black bean seed were purchased by MSU, packaged and shipped to Port-au-Prince.

“The Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab’s extensive network of seed producers and collaborators in Central America, the Caribbean and the U.S. ensured that the required quantities of bean seed would come from reputable seed producers”, said Luis Flores, project coordinator at MSU. Since the hurricane affected region has multiple planting seasons, the first distribution of seed will begin in January and continue through August 2017.

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), a long-term partner with LIL and MSU, is taking the lead, handling the 200+ MT of seed and coordinating its delivery to beneficiary farmers in South West Haiti. Local government officials and NGOs in communities within the hurricane affected area are assisting with the identification of farmers and the seed distribution effort.

The goal is to provide enough quality seed of the improved black bean varieties to a minimum of 6,000 smallholder farmers. Each farmer will receive a 5 to 22.5 kg sack of seed according to the area of land that they want to plant. Educational booklets and videos on the improved varieties and bean crop management, appropriate for low education learners, will also be made available to the farmers. A phone hotline will be set up to answer questions from farmers, and map bean plantings to assess future impact on food security and seed requirements.

“We want to ensure successful planting and production of beans as well as seamless coordination with Haiti-based organizations to help the farmers get through this crucial first year,” Flores said.

Two of the high-yielding bean varieties selected for distribution (Zenith and Zorro) were developed by Dr. James Kelly, common bean breeder at Michigan State University, with support from the Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab. These black bean varieties are grown widely in Michigan but found to be adapted and high yielding in Haiti and the Caribbean where black beans are preferred for eating.

The USAID Mission to Haiti contacted MSU for this project because of its expertise in common bean varieties adapted to Central America and the Caribbean, its long-term engagement with the National Seed Service in Haiti and its extensive experience with bean seed distribution in Haiti through another USAID funded project at MSU, the Bean Technology Dissemination Project (BTD). BTD (2010-2013) addressed a shortage of bean seed in the region by distributing high quality seed of 39 different improved bean seed varieties to more than 120,000 resource-poor farmers in Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

For more details of the Mwen Gen Pwa project in Haiti or information on bean research to support smallholder farmers in developing countries, contact Luis Flores at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Irv Widders at 517-355-4693 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Marguerite Halversen at 517-884-7417 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab website also has extensive information on LIL projects: http://legumelab.msu.edu/.