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Strengthening the Capacity of Seed Bank Cooperatives in Fon Batis

Even though cooperatives in the Fon Batis have been long established, their growth has been limited due to their lack of access to agricultural credit for their members and capital credit for the business. Despite these challenges a level of organizational structure has been maintained and they remain in compliance with cooperative operating principles. Without external support, many cooperatives are unable to advance or fulfill the main objectives for which they were created. While they have a certain economic stability that allows them to continue to operate, they do not have sufficient structures in place to rise to a higher organizational level. In addition, the agricultural sector as a whole in Haiti is being challenged to source appropriate seed or even to source seed at all sufficient to meet the demand. This project proposes to strengthen two cooperatives in the Fon Batis area of Haiti:Coopérative Lumière Chinchiron (COLUC) and Coopérative L’union Peyisan Calouis(CUPEC); to provide funding and support for income-generating activities for members and to the cooperative organizations which will include the establishing of seed banks.

Cost: $349,082 USD
Term: 2016-2018
Funder/Partner: Premier Equipment Ltd., Hope International Development Agency, other significant donors
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Haiti Urban Gardens Project

To test the viability of a program that reaches out to women to develop urban gardens in some of the most marginalized areas of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In this pilot project, 75 urban residents will take part in a demonstration garden, learn horticulture production techniques, and learn how to use environmentally sustainable technologies suited to cities, such as rainwater harvesting and household waste management. Participants will learn to cultivate a wide variety of vegetables, roots, tubers, and herbs in small spaces such as patios, balconies, and rooftops. Through cultivation of these micro-gardens, low income families will be able to meet their basic dietary needs for vitamins, minerals, and plant protein by gaining direct access to fresh, nutritious vegetables every day. Families will also earn extra income from the sale of small surpluses.

Cost: $59,000 USD
Term: Fifteen months
Funder/Partner: Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)
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Community Engagement and Cooperative Development in Bristout/Bobin

To establish two new cooperatives in the community of Bristout/Bobin in Port-au-Prince. The new cooperatives will own and operate a community waste management program and two new plastics recycling centers. Cooperative members will receive training in principles of cooperative management, business management, safe operation of equipment, and sorting and recycling of plastics. A cadre of male and female cooperative leaders and members will become capable of sustaining the project activities over the long term. Cooperative members will be able to disseminate knowledge to the wider community, resulting in growth of the cooperative and the recycling business. The problem of overwhelming plastics waste in the community will be addressed and the community will benefit from better waste management. Partner staff will also be trained in the use of participatory methodology in implementing cooperative development programs.

Cost: $52,000 USD
Term: Ten months
Funder/Partner: United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
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A New Day Dawns Again

In 2007, our Executive Director, Betsy Wall, wrote an article called, “A New Day Dawns in Fon Batis.” The article was about a graduation ceremony for literacy students in Fon Batis, central Haiti. Back in 2007, those community members spent three years attending literacy classes five days per week. They made great sacrifices to learn to read and write, sometimes rising as early as 4am and walking up to an hour each day to their classes.

The day of their graduation was a joyous celebration. Cooperative leaders, community leaders, and visiting dignitaries all attended this very special ceremony. There was music, singing, dancing, and praise for those who had worked hard to make the graduation possible. There were presentations and skits demonstrating how literacy had changed their lives. The graduates were proud that they no longer had to sign an “X” for their name. “There is now light in our head,” they sang. “We are not afraid of the X.” 190 graduates received their certificates that day.

Fast forward to December 2013 in the south of Haiti. In Duchity, cooperative members are also getting ready for a literacy graduation ceremony. Many of the features of the ceremony are the same as the one in Fon Batis back in 2007. These students also spent three years walking to school each day, learning to read and write. There is singing, dancing, presentations, skits, and immense pride and joy on the part of the graduates. The only real difference is that this time, there are over 1,400 graduates. So many that they barely all fit inside the building where the ceremony is being held.

I was there on the day of the Duchity graduation in December and was able to watch each inspiring person receive their graduation certificate. Three years ago, they were not only illiterate; they were a farming community living on subsistence, with few plans and little hope for how to improve their lives and their future. But on the day of the graduation, I saw an entire community of confident, educated, entrepreneurial individuals. They have plans, they know how to work together, and they have hope that they can improve their own lives.

This project was funded in large part by private businesses and individuals in Canada, such as Premier Equipment. The cooperative members of Duchity have repeatedly expressed their deep gratitude and thanks to those in Canada who helped them reach this goal. It has truly changed the lives of thousands. A new day has dawned, but not just for Fon Batis, for all of Haiti.

By Valerie Busch, Research and Project Development, FIDA

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A Message from the Chair

It is exciting to share some of my thoughts and future aspirations for FIDA on the eve of celebrating 30 years of promoting agriculture production in Haiti. That history alone, of focusing exclusively on one vital sector in one single country, gives FIDA/pcH a unique standing amongst international aid agencies in developing the best possible aid strategies for the future.

To rely on history alone has little merit. There is so much more that can and should be done in Haiti to bring the reality of a sustainable lifestyle to each and every individual Haitian. At the same time, the experience of 30 years in rural Haiti, in the midst of so much faint hope, has given FIDA/pcH unmatched experience and knowledge of the potential and impact of the cooperative model for the country and sharing this mission with other development partners. The vision of FIDA/pcH to be a leader of the cooperative model and to empower rural peasants to develop their economic and social capacity has become a powerful reality.

This is why FIDA/pcH appeals to me. I have been involved in several cooperatives as an Ontario farmer during my lifetime. I believe the cooperative model represents the essential development stage to launch larger numbers of people into a sustainable future. During a recent trip to Haiti, I was overjoyed to see Haitian cooperative members conducting and participating in their first Annual General Meeting, making those all-important decisions that directly impact their future, all within the framework and principles of the international cooperative business model. I thought, how exciting would it be if the greater charitable community united in a commitment to only launch projects that allowed Haiti to determine its own present and future ability to survive and thrive?

FIDA/pcH is a rare organization in Haiti that is attracting like-minded partners and donors who share the participatory philosophy in bringing complementing resources and expertise to communities who invest in the agricultural development model. As the current chairman of FIDA, I am excited to work with our Haitian counterpart, pcH, to further the empowerment of thousands of rural cooperative members. As FIDA/pcH, we employ a dedicated and experienced Haitian staff who work tirelessly to deliver practical common-sense solutions, grounded in local ownership and management.

The belief that true sustainability must begin with local motivation and ownership is the foundation of FIDA/pcH’s commitment to provide resources to current and emerging cooperatives and to other partners. It is in FIDA’s ability to draw resources from Canada and the USA that enable pcH to implement its sustainable cooperative model to many more communities, empowering more Haitian women and men to be leaders in producing food for their country.

by Bill Falk, Chair, FIDA Canada

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Did you know? Haiti is one of the World’s Leading Vetiver Producers

What is vetiver? Vetiver is a type of fragrant grass that grows with long stems and long, thin, rigid leaves. Though it originated in Asia, it is widely cultivated in tropical regions all over the world.

Vetiver can be used for many things. Most significantly, the oil derived from the plant is used for perfumery, cosmetics, and aromatherapy. Over half of the world’s vetiver oil originates from Haiti, and 90% of Haiti’s vetiver oil is exported to Switzerland, France, and the United States, where it is primarily used in the manufacture of men’s perfumes. Vetiver oil lends an earthy-woody aroma to perfume. Vetiver’s usefulness doesn’t stop there. Due to the plant’s fibrous properties, it can also be used for handicrafts and rope production.

Vetiver is also widely used in agricultural production. Its root system is very strong, meaning the plant can help to stabilize the soil, withstand deep water flow, and protect against erosion. It is often planted on hillsides and near streams to combat the effects of erosion. It can also protect soil moisture under hot and dry conditions.

In addition to being a great plant for erosion control, it is also great for animal feed. Vetiver is able to survive heavy grazing and is a suitable feed for cattle, goats, sheep, and horses. It is also used for weed control in coffee and cocoa fields.

In Haiti, over 30,000 small-scale farmers cultivate vetiver for all these reasons and more!

 

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What Makes FIDA-pcH Unique?

What is required of us to be in solidarity with a country like Haiti while avoiding a model of dependency?

I have had a very long history with Haiti, first travelling there in the late sixties as a teenager with my father. He was consumed with the above question. It shaped a fascinating, year-long correspondence. Such questions are rarely asked in the development world, largely because it requires too much of us. It takes vision and guts to take this kind of high road. I credit my Dad for having both.

Back in the eighties, there wasn’t any money in “empowering people to be Masters of their own Destiny,” as my Dad was fond of saying. To many, I think he sounded like a kook. There were times I thought the same thing of him. However, I adored him. I became afflicted with the same vision.

Just about any vision worth its salt requires a foundation of principles and values; such that are less about physical structures and activities and more about affirming our humanity, leading us toward productive and peaceful communities through respectful relationships. As common-sense as this sounds, it is a tough thing to fund because a donor cannot as easily visualize the transformation of human lives. It also repositions the role of the donor and places the beneficiaries at the heart of their own development process. This becomes a different kind of “feel good” benefit that many people often can’t get their head around.

 So, what does such an approach look like? How have we understood what it takes to effectively work in a country such as Haiti? Aside from knowing that we can save ourselves about ten years by putting Haitians on the front line (we have no foreigners on staff) and believing there is solid expertise and commitment already in country (not all Haitians are poor and illiterate), we take an investment-based approach that focuses on what people have and what they can do. This is the foundation to fostering mutually respectful and productive relationships. Here are the top ten points:

  1. We are responsive as opposed to interventionist. We only work with communities upon personal (and written) invitation.
  2. We undertake a very thorough assessment process to determine the resources, needs, capacity, motivation, etc. of the community. Following this, we typically prepare a three-year plan based on the findings.
  3. We are strict adherents and practitioners of participatory methodology, which is the foundation of owner-based development.
  4. Every partnership with a community involves a written commitment to participate in a (cooperative) business model and identified business activity and list of potential members.
  5. We abide by the Seven International Principles of Cooperative that must be upheld in honouring the stated conditions of the partnership.
  6. Members must be invested shareholders, with the value of each share being determined by the membership of each cooperative.
  7. They must be participating members as well as financially invested and must reside in the vicinity of the cooperative.
  8. They must host an Annual General Meeting and all positions of each committee must be selected through a transparent electoral process.
  9. Once the commitment is established with a community, we provide a bank of resources in the areas of business enterprise (cooperative), economic activity (agriculture related) and member capacity (which is centered on a three-year adult literacy program). As cooperatives evolve and their needs become more sophisticated, so do our services, such as credit loans, audit services, financing irrigation systems, seed storage silos, housing assistance, cholera/health training, interim relief (due to drought/disaster), and so on.
  10. All cooperatives operate as autonomous, self managed enterprises, which, as they evolve, begin to serve as the leadership and resource centers of the community.

I believe what makes this model work where others fail is our articulation and understanding of the myriad of psychosocial obstacles that are endemic to the country of Haiti. I have rarely read a proposal that acknowledges these and then prepares a plan to address them accordingly.

My father is a real gem; a great visionary. It is a noble legacy that I share along with thousands of peasant men and women in Haiti who, today, are proud enterprising farmers able to provide for their families and be transformational leaders in their communities.

by Betsy Wall, Executive Director, FIDA

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Improved Livestock Raising and Business Management for Poultry Production

To train pcH staff and community members in Zoranger in improved management of poultry for meat and egg production, and to provide an example of a viable poultry production unit that is appropriate to the local context. pcH staff will be trained on how to implement and support poultry production programs in rural Haiti. In particular, pcH staff will receive training in poultry husbandry, health management, and basic business management relating to poultry production. Community members in Zoranger will receive training in poultry husbandry, disease control, feeding, and improving local feeds. Four localities in Zoranger will participate in the construction and management of demonstration chicken coops. Project participants will experience how to manage viable, appropriate poultry production units and how to apply basic farm management skills. pcH will increase their capacity in delivering poultry production support to rural communities in Haiti.

Cost: $25,000 CAD
Term: Three months
Funder/Partner: University of Prince Edward Island Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), Interantional Sustainable Community Assistance (ISCA), and Haiti Broilers
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