To go from Les Cayes, in Southern Haiti, to Port-au-Prince, a mango travels 190 kilometers of bumpy roads in the back of a truck.
Until not long ago, if a Ministry of Agriculture employee in Port-au-Prince wanted to know the figures of mango production in Les Cayes, he or she had no choice but to do the trip under the same conditions as the shaken mangoes above.
The number of Ministry’s staff using e-mail was low, the lack of a reliable landline phones forced staff to use their personal cell phones.
Furthermore, there were no communication networks between the Ministry's central administration in Port-au-Prince and its regional offices in the 10 Haitian departments.
“The information was in hardcopies, on people’s heads or sitting on someone’s laptop. You would need to talk to people to find out information about productive areas, for instance,” explains Diego Arias, a World Bank Agriculture specialist.
The situation was less than ideal for the Ministry in charge of overseeing the activity that generates a quarter of the country’s GDP and half of the employment.
And then, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, killing over 200,000 people, and hitting directly the Ministry of Agriculture’s infrastructure.
Staffs were killed. Paper-based registries, existing information systems and official documents were destroyed. The Ministry’s capacity to lead the much needed economic recovery was diminished.