It is already a complex issue to assure local food production in rural Haiti. Nearly abandoned to themselves, farmers are collectively working in solidarity to mutually support one another. Yet their resilience is now seriously challenged with climatic events and unexpected changes.
Peasants in Gros Morne combatted Sigatoga, a disease that was destroying the plantain - a main staple in Haiti. With ox-plowing, they mechanized the laboring of the field, increasing the yield as they cultivated more land for planting in time for the rainy season.
Today, these farmers are facing an intensifying problem with clear variation of the climate, the dry season has gotten longer, the expected rain is unpredictable and is shorter. Farmers, now with mechanized support to expand the acreage plowed, must wait on the rain to seed the ground in areas where there are no rivers. As river beds dry up, pumping water that has been an ongoing alternative is less than efficient.
Two weeks ago the community of farmers in Gwomon met with the Lambi Fund to dialogue on alternatives and options in the absence of a national plan for watershed management to support local farming.
The efforts must be supported to expand and support local food production. In this context, the options being considered are as follows:
Advocacy for a long term national plan for watershed management;
Building artesian wells that can supply water for planting;
Building cisterns to retain rainwater when it comes in earnest threatening the stabilization of the region.
It is evident that we, rural Haiti, cannot confront this problem alone. It is only the begining of a multi-faceted issue of climate that is intersectorial when it comes to production of food, reduction of poverty and surviving local in a global climate destabilization context. We need everyone's help to attack an ineffective system that has resulted in reducing our capacity to survive.
Our work in partnership to support local production continues. Lambi Fund has initiated 6 projects to support local food production:
1. IPTKSK, the Peasant Union in Solidarity with Savann Kare (the Artibonite community in which it is located) formed in 2000 to advance the economic interests of the community. IPTKSK has proposed an animal husbandry project involving the purchase of 140 female goats and 20 enhanced male goats. This $52,560 project will include technical training on animal breeding and nursery management, and the planting of 20,000 trees.
2. ACHVRO, the peasant association of Ravin Olyann, worked with Lambi Fund in 2011 to acquire a mill to process sugar cane. ACHVRO will acquire a commercial boiler to expand production and to establish a small microcredit fund to expand business opportunities for women in the community. This $19,275 project includes training in business management and accounting.
3. OPB, the Boula Peasant Organization, located in Haiti’s Southern Department, formed 40 years ago to improve the social and economic conditions within their community and to address deforestation. This $33,680 project will enhance agricultural production through the acquisition of four pairs of cows and three ox plows. The project will include planting 20,000 trees and will involve management training and a workshop in nursery management.
4. SOFALA, Active Women in Solidarity with Lafrazilyè, formed in 2005 to improve the condition of women in their community. SOFALA will expand peanut production and plant 20,000 fruit trees. This $31,590 project includes training in orchard maintenance and the harvesting, processing and transportation of fruit to market as well as instruction in organizational management and development.
5. KOFOKA, Active Women of the Commune of Aken, formed in 2008 to improve the social and economic conditions for the women of Komin Aken. Located in the Southern Department of Haiti, Komin Aken has a population of roughly 8,500 people, 350 of whom are members of KOFOKA; ten of its members are men. KOFOKA seeks to reduce wastage, enhance production of fruits and peanuts, and to increase income to their community.
6. CPP, the Center for Plantain Production, was established to work with the farmers ofGwomon to eradicate Sigatoka, a disease that impacted local plantain production. It began the second phase of development in May, 2014. During the coming year, through a survey of the farmers, the Lambi Fund will seek to identify the needs and define the future role of the CPP. Located in Latibonite, the primary goal in 2014 is to strengthen the organizational capacity of the Center for Plantain Production through reinforcement of its finances while supplying a growing demand for plantain production for other institutions. This should result in the production and sale of a minimum of 30,000 plantain seedlings.
Training and exchange of knowledge and information are important organizational capacity building tools.
Providing educational tools to the different sectors of Haitian society ,including youth, adults and professionals, represents a formidable task. It is also an important element in the Lambi Fund’s work with grassroots organizations. We often talk about the number of units of grains harvested and processed and not about the project specific skills and basic organizational management tools needed to be sustainable. Our workshops include: Project Management, organizational capacity building, farming techniques, rights and responsibilities in building democracy; equity parity and access. Workshops participants gain skills that go beyond project management and operations. They also offer the tools needed to think about the social context and share a vision of change as well as a plans of action charting the course for change and their community’s socio-economic transformation.
Realizing the cost incurred in such trainings, Lambi as a matter of policy is continuously creating opportunity for training trainers who become model instructing their peers. Recently the Lambi Fund has also encouraged and supported another strategy of mutual help ( called relay) by identifying organizations with the capacity to become the source of information and training to other grassroots organizations. The trainee can attend workshops offered in through one of the projects financed by the Lambi Fund or through another organization which partners with the Lambi Fund. These workshops are usually held when the project is about to start, Lambi wants to be sure that the organization has had the opportunity to acquire the right tools and techniques which will enable them to manage the project in ways that will ensure sustainability benefiting its members and the community.
2013 into 2014 was a successful year of skill transfer for our ruralpartners:
Type of training Number of days # of participants Objectives realized
Animal Husbandry/Goat breeding/ 10 327 Five organization began their herd with trained Vet tech, pharmacy developing their base for revenue and income to combat poverty in their community
Community Credit/financial management 18 210 7 organizations received specific instructions to manage credit for storing food, credit forwomen
Agroforestry 15 214 5 organizations trained in techniques of banana agroforestry including specific irrigation, ox-plowing Environment Creating nurseries 30 90 7 community organizations benefited in getting nurseries set up for reforestation activities that involved their whole community and for one organization KOKAPEG their goal to replenish their colonial coffee stock planting 440,000 coffee trees and 45,000 ombrage trees for the coffee.
We are very pleased to be able to educate and train our partners for their own growth and sustainability. We thank you for your active participation.
" I am a 35 year old mother of three sons and two daughters. I am a member of AJSDC since its inception in 1997. We are the most proud of the grain mill, our best accomplishment. Personally, this grain mill has done me a great service. I no longer have to walk hours to process my harvest and the mill gives us quick service. I do not have to wait for long periods of time to get to the market. I also do not grind with a hand grinder anymore. As a member of AJSDC, I can grind even if I do not have the money to pay upfront and I can pay AJSDC when I sell my products. Now I have more time at home with my family.
My name is Marie C. and I am proud to be a member of AJSDC. This mill gives me more motivation to work towards the growth of the organization and I will do everything I can for the association to last longer to serve people in the community."
The Lambi Fund of Haiti in partnership with the rural community organizations has constructed four new mills: AJSDC in Latibonite, ODRO in Robert-Maniche, MOPDAD and ACHVRO in Gros Morne, milling sugar cane into syrup and Klerin (distilled alcohol). The three grain mills are providing rural farmers with a convenient, affordable and high quality option for milling their grains, rice and millet. These partnership resulted in improving livelihood for 649 members and their families in addition to an increasing number of farmers in the region. 52.5% of the members are women.
Each organization cited above has strengthened their committment to improve the environment in Haiti by planting 20,000 new fruit and forest trees in their respective communities. 80,000 trees in all!
Joseph "Tidj"” Dorsainvil is a Field Monitor for the Lambi Fund of Haiti in the Artibonite region of Haiti. For 15 years, he has been a passionate steward of Lambi Fund's work. Here, Sarah Leavitt sat down with Tidjo to talk about his work, the organizations we partner with and the current state of Haiti.
What is your role within Lambi Fund?
The first thing that we [myself and the Program Directors] do is investigate the [potential] projects after organizations send the proposals to Lambi Fund. Second, I do follow-up and monitor the projects and support the organizations in their efforts so that the project can be successful.
What makes your work difficult?
My work is difficult because the projects are so spread out across the region and some of them are difficult to get to. Depending on the weather, rain and water block the road and if the roads aren't good, we can't get to where we need to go. Also, the political state of the country [makes things difficult] because a lot of times politics and different situations are going on that make it so that we cannot travel to where we need to go to do follow-up on projects.
Can you tell me a story about a certain organization or project that was having problems getting off the ground and what was done to help them along?
There was an organization named AFKB (the Association of Peasants of Katò Bayonè). They had a grain mill project. It was a strong organization, but it didn't necessarily meet all of Lambi Fund's criteria.
Instead of it being an organization, it was more of a cooperative. Yet because the project was such a good project and it was a strong project to support, even though it took us a while, we took the time to work with the organization and to form it as an organization. It took us a lot of time to do that, to restructure AFKB and to provide training so that they could become a strong organization.
Can you clarify what the difference between an organization and a cooperative would be?
An organization is a group of people in a specific area that looks at all of their problems andcarries them on their back. They try to address all of the community's issues—they look at social, political, economic and all other types of issues a community might suffer from and try to address them. A cooperative's primary goal, [on the other hand] is the economic component.
What is one of the most rewarding projects you've worked on or one of the biggest changes you have seen in a community as a result of a partnership with Lambi Fund?
I would say APS. It was a grain mill project and one of the first projects that Lambi Fund worked on. If you look at it up until now, over 14 years or so, you can look at their bookkeeping and their records are flawless. Even though we don't actively work with them anymore and we don't monitor them anymore, they still stay right on top of their game and still do everything so flawlessly.
They've advanced so much and have used their profits to benefit the organization. APS even bought a truck [with their profits] to transport the women back and forth to sell their grains. The mill motor at one point broke down. They didn't wait for help to get another motor. They were able to buy another motor to replace the one that was broken.
What would you say, in your opinion, are the current priorities of what Lambi Fund should be working on today?
Right now, I think that there are three projects that are very important to the [Haitian] peasants. The first or number one most important, are the agricultural projects. The grain mills, irrigation pumps to get water, the plantain and coffee farms, and anything that has to do with agriculture is most important for providing food for the peasants.
The next one I would say is the animal husbandry projects. Haitians do not have a lot of means to take care of animals themselves. These animal husbandry projects are very important because it provides members with a way to make a little bit of money to send their children to school and to feed their families.
The last priority I would say are the community credit funds. This allows the female merchants to not get beat over the head by the bigger organizations or bigger financial institutions when they need to borrow money. It helps them to continue on with their work, to continue on with their sales and merchandising, and to make some profits so that they can continue to make a better life for themselves.
Is there a story that you feel shows an impact that we don't necessarily think of when we talk about our projects?
I would say the sugarcane mills. These are very important because before, it used to be animals that farmers would use to breakdown the sugar-cane. The time that they used to spend overnight, husbands and wives boiling the syrup and going through the whole process to transform it into syrup, they don't waste that time anymore.
Things that used to take five days to do can now be done in a couple hours' time. This is something that we don't really see on a regular basis. Another thing with the sugarcane mills that people don't necessarily realize is the safety aspect.
With ACHVRO and the benefits they have explained, is that when it used to be late and it took so much time to use the wooden mills, when they were feeding the cane into the machines, sometimes if they were too tired their fingers would get caught. Once their fingers got caught, their arm would go right into it. So, it hasn't only diminished the amount of time that people would spend [making syrup], it is also a much safer way to go and it has lowered the number of accidents.
Members also make more money and in making more money, they can plant more and produce more sugarcane. Of course, this making more money does not only help their pockets, but it helps the organization to fund other projects that they may need to [or want to do] in the future.
I am hoping that you can try and clarify something. A lot of people see Lambi Fund's projects and think it is as simple as buying a goat or building a grain mill, but there is an essential part of our work where an organization is required.
Can you talk about why this is the case?
What is good about working with organizations and what is important, is that organizations are a group of people that have gotten together and are already members of a group. They have already identified what their issues are and what their solutions could be.
Most of the time, organizations just don't have the technical or financial capacity to make these projects a reality. So, by the time organizations come to Lambi Fund, they're really just asking for that financial backing and technical support. Of course, we throw into this, monitoring and follow-up as well. Working with groups makes it easier to follow-up and see what the results of the project are too.
If we were just to fund individuals who made a request for money, after that person gets their money and they do what they have got to do, then you'll probably never see that person again. There is no follow-up. There is no way for us to test the feasibility, to test the potential success a project might have.
Can you talk about what makes Lambi Fund different from big NGO's? What sets us apart?
The difference or the main difference, between Lambi Fund and the larger NGO's is that the large nonprofits come in and identify what they think the problems are and decide in what way they will intervene.
They might look and say, this person needs a house—we'll build a house. Or they might look and say this region needs water, let us find a source of water and give them some clean water. But Lambi Fund doesn't work that way. It is the people in a community that identify and prioritize their problems. [NGO's] come to do something that they decide is good for the people, but it might not be the highest priority for that community.
The difference with Lambi Fund is that the organizations have identified their own problems and have cometo us. We are not just stepping in and intervening and saying that this is what we think the problem is, because half the time what NGO's think the problem is, isn't the bigger problem for that person or community.
Any last comments?
Within the way that Lambi Fund works as well, and another important aspect of organizations coming up with the projects and identifying their problems, is the fact that members do the work themselves. They have identified the problem, and while Lambi Fund accompanies the organizations in reaching their goals, they are the ones that execute it—it is not Lambi Fund that does the work. The people know that they are the ones who have put their blood and sweat into it… and they have a vested interest in assuring that the project is completed and that it succeeds.
While it’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2013, the Lambi Fund of Haiti has been working hard to expand food production in Haiti. This is an effort that’s oftentimes slow moving, yet progress with Lambi Fund’s current projects is tangible. One exciting effort is Lambi Fund’s new phase for the Center for Plantain Propagation (CPP). In this phase, Lambi Fund is working with farmers in the Northwest region to support papitas production. Papitas are fried plantains that are a popular snack throughout Haiti. School children and adults alike enjoy snacking on them.
The CPP’s effort to not only increase production of healthy plantain plants, but to transform these into a commodifiable good is progress that’s worth applauding. While this phase is still in its infancy, and it is difficult to predict results, the hope is that supporting papitas production in rural Haiti will provide farmers with an added source of income.
Leaders of the Center for Plantain Propagation and Lambi Fund staff are also working to explore and identify future crops that would benefit from future training initiatives and support. This would mean that training and support services for crops such as beans, rice and corn could end up being selected and workshops and training opportunities that teach farmers pest management and improved crop production would be available.
Progress at the CPP is exciting because this center is much more than a place to buy healthy plantain plants. It is a place to learn, network with fellow farmers and dream about the future of farming in Haiti.
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