Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the second most densely populated. The country is ranked 77 out of 79 in the 2012 Global Hunger Index and suffers from a dramatic income gap. The poorest 40 percent of the population have access to less than 6 percent of the country’s income, while the richest 2 percent control 26 percent of the national wealth (IFAD 2012). Access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food remains an issue for millions of Haitians. An estimated 3.8 million Haitians, or 38 percent of the population, is food insecure (WFP 2012).

Haiti’s overall poverty rate is 77 percent. However, in rural areas, which account for 52 percent of the country’s population, 88 percent of the population is poor and 67 percent lives in extreme poverty. Per capita income in rural areas is approximately one-third that of urban areas. Only 10 percent of rural populations have access to electricity, and less than 8 percent have access to safe drinking water (IFAD 2012).

Haiti is a food deficit country (WFP 2012). Fifty percent of the country’s food requirements are imported, and food prices have been consistently rising since the end of 2010. This increase has led to an overall loss of purchasing power for the majority of Haitians. Low agricultural productivity and urban encroachment on arable land provide additional challenges for Haiti’s rural populations. Average land holdings are less than 1 ha in size (IFAD 2012). Only one in every five farmers depends solely on farming his or her own land. Eighty percent of farms fail to produce enough to feed their households. Other income-generating activities include wage labor on larger farms, extraction of sand, chalk, or charcoal, and small-scale trade. Remittances are crucial for the survival of the poorest populations, accounting for 15 percent of rural incomes.

Haiti is also plagued by climate-related disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. In January 2010, Haiti was struck by a powerful earthquake that left more than 220,000 people dead and millions displaced. This disaster was followed by a widespread outbreak of cholera in October 2010.