Rebuilding Haiti From Davos

ROME – When the captains of business and industry meet in Davos for the World Economic Forum this month, the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti will be near the top of their agenda. It should be, for there is much they can do to help.

Haiti was in dire straits even before the earthquake struck. Rapid population growth, coupled with political and social turmoil , helped make Haiti the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Right now, the international relief efforts in Haiti are rightly focused on the country’s urban areas, which suffered most in the earthquake. But when rebuilding starts, rural areas must not be overlooked.

In fact, many of those who have lost their homes and jobs in Port-au-Prince and other Haitian cities will likely return to rural communities where they have family. This will put pressure on the rural economy and place more strain on areas already grappling with meagre resources.

Agriculture plays a vital role in Haiti’s economy, yet the country does not produce enough food to feed its people. Some 60% of the food Haitians need, and as much as 80% of the rice they eat, is imported. Sustainable agricultural development is essential to improving the country’s prospects for long-term economic and food security.