When 438 farmers, representing 71 rural peasant organizations, showed up to join the Lambi Fund of Haiti to reflect on the 20 years of partnership, it was a time for celebration. More importantly, it was a time to affirm that change is a long term process and that there is no room to step back. As the issues emerge, it is clear that our partnership with locally knowledgeable farmers assure that strategic solutions are implemented that make a difference.
2014 is only four years after the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, but having been in Haiti for 20 years, we have learned that from the bottom up, Haitian peasants are making a difference in their local communities, building a stronger economy with the investments we have made together in partnership, investments that allow Haitians to begin to meet their extraordinary potential.
At the same time, the Lambi Fund continues to work on projects of economic development and sustainable agriculture and environment, contributing to long term rebuilding. For the northeast, plagued with an 8-month drought that is impacting every life in the three communities in which we are working - Didyet, Lakoma and Mawotye - each community is getting 10 new cisterns to provide water to 7,500 families.
This is in addition to the fourteen cisterns built in 2012 each of which provide water for up to 90 families. It is all adding to the long term rebuilding of Haiti.
Mesina stood proud and said "I am growing my business, keeping my children in school and my family alive. I do not have to pay an arm and a leg for it and I am helping other women do the same,"
This is the story of one of 500 women who started a mutual fund putting together their one dollar (45 HTG) contribution at their monthly meeting. COFECA met the Lambi Fund a year ago and presented their proposal to develop their community credit inside the organization who is involved in transforming peanut into peanut butter; supporting women who make jelly to sell on the local market and seamstresses making clothing for local children and adults. This organization has been struggling to expand their membership's enterprises.
Lambi fund has funded the community credit fund to create a revolving fund. Today 125 women of the 500 have already expanded their business with 5,000 HTG loan payable at 2% to the organization. The interest is over 10% below the market rate, and will be used to expand loans to other members.
The credit helps generate new revenue to assist women and expand food production in the Kavayon region. Lambi Fund is currently supporting 9 organizations, like COFECA, with micro credit funds for over a thousand members to have access to small loans at 2% interest to generate or reinforce their small enterprise. According to Foreign Policy.com, Haiti registers 75% of unemployment and widespread underemployment (2013). Building one's own enterprise is their income and revenue producing activity that keeps the family fed, the children in school. It is the way out of poverty. Creating work that generate an income for families is one of the many facets of rebuilding Haiti in the longterm.
Peasant farmers are working locally making a difference in the standards of living in their respective communities in spite of challenging climatic events like hurricane Sandy and the drought that followed. In our partnership with rural farmers in Haiti, we continue to witness remarkable courage, determination and resilience. Indicators like increasing memberships in local organizations, the level of utilization of service like ox-plowing, irrigation, water provision from the riverbed are all elements of building more sustainability for communities assuming leadership to create long term change in their quality of life.
The Association of Farmers and Breeders of Akin (APEAG), located in the Artibonite region, began their goat breeding in 2012. Since the inception of the partnership, their membership increased by 31%, their herds have grown from 120 to 222 and now to a 342 animal count benefiting 126 members. The Veterinary pharmacy extends its services to the whole community stabilizing animal health among all farmers through preventive vaccination and medicine for disease management. The project is in its evaluation phase but its impact is showing positive progress beyond the membership.
Below are summaries of the projects and their status of implementation:
Increase food production in rural communities in Haiti. By the end of 2012, over 80 percent of the sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry projects supported by Lambi Fund will increase their annual crop yields or animal production.
o Lambi Fund supported five new or continuing grain mill projects in 2012. Four, or 80 percent, of grain mills are operating and have directly increased the amount of crop local farmers are processing for sale in the local market. o Lambi Fund also supported seven new or continuing animal husbandry projects in 2012, 100% of which saw an increase in healthy goat and sheep production. However, Lambi Fund had the hard target of producing 628 kid goats in 2012, though only 564 were born as of late December, a shortfall of ten percent. This is largely attributed to one project, the Peasants Organization of Bige (OPB), where a number of goats initially purchased for the project fell ill in transit. Some died, and others failed to bring their kids to term.
By the end of 2013, over 80 percent of the sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry projects supported by Lambi Fund will have access to resources to increase their annual agricultural activity.
o Lambi Fund has launched four new sustainable agriculture or animal husbandry projects in the first five months of 2013, including: OPMO Irrigation, SADN Ox-Plow Service, OPDTM Goat Breeding, and KAPKAK Coffee production. APCE goat breeding and APKB irrigation and agro credit. In 2013 goat breeding has yielded an additional 688 goatso Lambi Fund has also launched a new phase in the Center for Plantain Production (CPP) project to support papitas (plaintain chips production)& Cooperative Agricultural Production of Gros Morne) KOPWAGM and explore community needs to identify crops that future training initiatives should support.
Improve access to credit in rural communities in Haiti. By the end of 2012, at a minimum six community credit funds will be reinforced.
o Lambi Fund supported one project in 2012 with reinforcement of a community credit fund as its main activity. Funds were disbursed to the organization, Association of Women for Action in Gros Morne (AFAGM), in December 2012, and the first lending cycle is complete and has been fully reimbursed. AFAGM is proceeding with the second lending cycle to his women members.o Lambi Fund also supported four other projects with community credit funds as a supporting activity. One organization, Peasant Movement for the Agricultural Development of Delann (MOPDAD), reinforced two credit funds, one which specifically targeted female members, while the other three organizations reinforced one fund each.
By the end of 2013, at a minimum, three additional community credit funds will be reinforced.
o Lambi Fund has launched four new projects involving community credit fund reinforcement in the first five months of 2013: AGPBRM, OPAGDEVES, and OPMO. AGPKo Additionally, AFAGM has completed its second lending cycle with HTG 250,000 gourdes. AFAGM members are using the loans to support their small food and clothing vending businesses, though two members have put the money towards their small restaurant.
Improve sanitation in rural areas of Haiti. By the end of 2012, at a minimum, 16 community latrines are built and maintained by eight grassroots organizations.
o Lambi Fund supported the construction of ten community latrines, each containing three units and equipped with hand soap and a small cistern for clean water. The 37.5 percent shortfall is due to lack of funds. o Lambi Fund also supported the construction of 14 cisterns in the northwest.
By the end of 2013, at a minimum, ten community latrines are built and maintained by five grassroots organizations.
o Lambi Fund staff is currently working with its partners to raise funding to add latrines.o The risk of cholera during the rainy season is higher, so Lambi Fund staff is discussing prevention practices with its partners, distributing visual aid information on prevention of cholera, the treatment of water.o Lambi Fund has adopted a new project policy. Every project construction will have latrines and access to water for hygiene and sanitation.
Increase reforestation efforts in Haiti. By the end of 2012, at a minimum, eight community organizations are planning or have completed a reforestation project, resulting in a total of at least 120,000 trees planted.
o In 2012, six Lambi Fund supported projects planted a total of 160,000 tree seedlings. o The remaining two organizations that launched Lambi Fund-supported projects in 2012 are planning the reforestation phases of their projects in 2013.
By the end of 2013, at a minimum, five community organizations are planning or have completed a reforestation project, resulting in a total of at least 100,000 trees planted.o Lambi Fund launched one new Reforestation project in the first five months of 2013: MPC is planting 60,000 fruit and shade tree seedlings. Additionally, KAPKAK will plant 45,000 coffee tree seedlings and 15,000 shade tree seedlings in its Sustainable Development project.o KPM has planted a second round of 60,000 tree seedlings, having distributed the first round among its members.
Increase skills and knowledge of leaders. By the end 2012, 80 percent of the organizational leaders will indicate an increase in leadership and community organizing skills, democratic principles, gender equity and reforestation techniques, as well as skills gained in at least one of the following areas: community credit fund management; sustainable agriculture practices; animal husbandry techniques; or water quality and health, sanitation and hygiene techniques.
In 2012, Lambi Fund organized:
o Twenty organizational management and leadership development trainings.o Seven animal husbandry trainings.o Ten sustainable agriculture trainings.o One environment training.o Two gender equity seminars.
By the end 2013, at least 150 organizational members will have participated in trainings for leadership and community organizing skills, democratic principles, gender equity and reforestation techniques, as well as at least one of the following: community credit fund management; sustainable agriculture practices; animal husbandry techniques; or water quality and health, sanitation and hygiene techniques.
Thus far in 2013, Lambi Fund has organized:
o Five nursery management trainings.o Three capacity building and accounting trainings.o Two credit fund management trainings.
Your donation has made it possible for us to partner with peasant farmers to create activities that lead to the reduction of poverty in their respective communities. Know that increased revenue and job creation through alternative economy results in increased capacity for parents to cultivate more land, ability to pay the schooling for their children, and access medical care for their families. Because our projects are sustainable, we assist our partners to improve their quality of life for their families and their communities.
The 89 members of the Partnership for Change in Ravin Olyann (ACHVRO), partnered with the Lambi Fund of Haiti in 2011 to build a sugarcane mill in their community. This mill is now fully operational and has been providing farmers in the area with an affordable and high-quality option for transforming their sugarcane into the more lucrative product, syrup.
As with most projects, ACHVRO has encountered many ups and downs throughout the launch and implemen- tation of this project. By and large, ACHVRO members and farmers in the area report being satisfied with the opening of the mill. It has greatly lessened the burden of having to process syrup at home by hand (which requires days of work) and they no longer have to travel long distances to visit other mills.
One difficulty ACHVRO encountered early on was when heavy rainfall produced bagasse (the fibrous byproduct of milled sugarcane that is used to fuel the mill) that was too wet to use. Then, not enough pans were purchased to boil the cane juice after processing. These pans are difficult to procure in Haiti and potential productivity was lessened as a result. Another difficulty came when production stalled for two weeks in the third quarter while the organization scrambled to have a broken blade repaired. Misfortune struck again when Hurricane Sandy hit in the fourth quarter. It destroyed a sizeable portion of sugarcane crops in the area and left the mill idle often.
Finally, many customers complained that they were not able to process their cane when they needed to due to a combination of long lines and a lack of staff at the facility.
These struggles exemplify why Lambi Fund continues its partnership with organizations long after the mill has opened or the project has launched. Working through issues that arise and learning how to run the mill as effectively and efficiently as possible is part of the learning process. Like all new businesses, members of ACHVRO have had to learn what works and does not work for its business enterprise.
For Lambi Fund, being there to provide support and offer reflections is an essential part of working to strengthen the day-to-day functioning of the project and to ensuring it remains operational for the long-term.
To address some of its shortcomings, ACHVRO is actively working to solve issues that are depressing its ability to meet the demand for mill services—such as procuring three more pans to enable a larger amount of syrup production.
In another instance, the organization's leadership purchased a plot of land using mill profits to increase sugarcane production following Hurricane Sandy. There were some problems in this, however, because this was not done in consultation with all of its members. As a result, Lambi Fund staff discussed with ACHVRO how this was not a democratic way to make decisions. Members agreed and have been working to include theentire membership of ACHVRO on large decisions such as this.
Fortunately, the land purchase has proven to be a beneficial investment (at least in the short-term). Members who lost their crops during Sandy were able to lease a plot of land and jumpstart planting follow- ing the storm. In fact, those that procured plots report having higher incomes than were expected following Sandy.
It is examples like these that make it clear that managing a community-led business enterprise in Haiti is not one with a linear path. There are struggles and stalls and it is important for Lambi Fund to be there to monitor and provide guidance along the way. As a result, ACHVRO is a stronger and more knowledgable organization. It is providing a valuable service to community members and is turning a profit—two accomplishments worth applauding.
Beyond this, ACHVRO is looking to the future as they look to implement other ways it can serve the community. Rooted in the sustainable agriculture training they received from Lambi Fund, ACHVRO is plan- ning an education program that will teach local farmers about pests and diseases that can decrease sugarcane output, as well as strategies to prevent or treat attacks on their crops. It is activities like these that are not only strengthening ACHVRO and its capacity to provide services, but are strengthening the entire community as a whole.
This last week, Lambi Fund staff members convened an annual 4-day long conference in the Artibonite region of Haiti. In all, 36 grassroots leaders from 9 organizations were in attendance. This intensive training covered a number of important topics including – civil education, human rights, gender equity and how to lead organizations that are democratic and inclusive. Quite a bit on the agenda for just four days!
Some of the participants’ thoughts on the training include:
“This training was especially important in regards to gender equity. I don’t have a family yet, but now I know how I should balance my family when I do,” said a young female member of the grassroots organization ACHVRO.
Of the training, an elder member replied, “It was especially important on the level of civic education, because in school, they used to dictate what was taught to you and couldn’t explain or clarify most things. I’m grateful to now know our role and responsibilities as citizens….and this has allowed us to understand certain advantages and disadvantages in society.”
Another young Haitian woman said, “Before, I didn’t know anything about gender equity, now I know a little bit more about balancing men and women in society.”
Finally, a member of OPMO assessed, “These past few days gave us the frame of reference to understand today’s reality.”
It was incredibly rewarding to watch program partners work together in groups, discuss issues in their communities and learn more about their roles in society. Many have received little or no formal education, so learning about their rights as citizens and humans beings was a first for most. Leaving the training, participants were eager to work together to strengthen their communities and their work.
In order to make these efforts more impactful, Lambi Fund staff taught the grassroots leaders strategies that they could use to strengthen their organizations’ capacities, how to lead effective meetings and how to use the strength of its members to impact significant change in their communities and country.
It was a whirlwind of a week!
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