Many farmers in Haiti struggle to gain regular access to water, particularly during the dry season when water availability is nearly zero. Year-round agricultural production is difficult, and the limited growing period makes maintaining a sustainable income a challenge.
The country’s poorly maintained irrigation canals are one underlying reason for the limited water supply. Sediment and other debris clog many of the canals, depriving farmers of the essential irrigation water they need for their fields. Some canals are so clogged that cleaning them requires heavy, expensive equipment, which most farmers cannot readily access. Although this cleaning falls under the responsibility of water-user associations, often these groups’ effectiveness is limited by organizational, technical, and managerial obstacles.
The Artibonite Valley, Haiti’s primary rice-producing region, is particularly affected by this limited access to water. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Agency for the Development of the Artibonite Valley (ODVA) is the state branch responsible for operating and maintaining the irrigation system for the entire valley. However, due to limited funding, ODVA has not been able to perform routine maintenance to keep the canals working at full capacity. As a result, some areas in the valley — specifically the Bocozèle area within the Saint Marc commune — have not had regular access to irrigation water since 2006.
Responding to these obstacles, USAID’s Feed the Future Haiti Chanje Lavi Plantè (CLP) project is improving the cleanliness and maintenance of irrigation systems in Haiti. The project is also promoting modern agricultural practices to improve crop yields and promote financial stability for farmers. Through initial meetings with ODVA and beneficiaries in late 2015, CLP identified community needs and helped develop a collaborative approach to tackle irrigation maintenance.