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!
So far, in 2013, seven new Lambi Fund of Haiti projects have been launched. These are exciting initiatives that are uniting communities and producing income generating activities in Haiti.
Three community credit funds were recently launched. These are creating access to affordable loans for members of grassroots organizations. The loans are being used by small merchants and farmers to invest in their crops and buy goods for their businesses. Additionally, Lambi Fund is training organization members how to manage the credit fund, maintain bookkeeping, and issue loans to its members. Once the loans are repaid, the money will replenish the credit fund and the organizations will have even more money to issue loans to even more of its members.
Another exciting effort is a coffee production project launched in partnership with the Cooperative of Agricultural Coffee Growers of Kalavil (KAPKAK). Here, Lambi Fund is providing the seeds, tools and training necessary to expand this coffee cooperative’s capacity to produce high-quality coffee beans.
The Peasant Movement of Charbe (MPC) is working with Lambi Fund to plant 60,000 fruit and forest trees in their community. They are receiving training on seedling production, reforestation, and composting. MPC members are also working to build two tree nurseries.
Another new project recently launched is an ox-plow service with The Society for Agricultural Development of Nip (SADN). Lambi Fund is providing the resources needed to purchase six oxen and three plows. Following training on how to manage and operate an ox-plow service, this service will affordably plow locals’ fields, which are now currently being plowed by hand.
The final project launched in 2013 so far, is a goat breeding project with The Three Mangoes Peasant Organization for Development (OPDTM). Lambi Fund is working with OPDTM to purchase 50 female and 5 male breeding goats and providing technical training in animal husbandry. Currently, the organization is working to build shelters for the animals, fenced in grazing areas and gardens to grow feed.
Each of these new projects are exciting initiatives that are strengthening grassroots organizations’ capacities in their communities and creating opportunities for income producing activities. As the projects evolve, Lambi Fund will have updates on their progress, struggles they face along the way and the impact they are making in their communities.
Staff from the Lambi Fund of Haiti met with representatives from 14 grassroots organizations on February 25, 2013 in Les Cayes, Haiti to receive an update on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Following the immense flooding that led to widespread loss of crops and livestock, Lambi Fund mobilized to provide emergency relief grants to 14 affected organizations in Southern Haiti. These grants were used to help organization members that were the most adversely affected purchase new seeds, fertilizers and supplies to replant their crops. Funds were also used to repair irrigation canals and replace livestock that were lost in the storm.
Thanks to support from donors like you, Lambi Fund was able to swiftly provide partners with the resources they needed to recover. A member of the Women’s Organization of Jabwen explained that, “Following the storm, the peasant population thought we couldn’t stand up again - all was lost. Members were depressed and complaining about their circumstances. Everyone was wondering - what are we going to do? How will we move forward? The emergency funding gave the people a change to till our land and plant again. We worked together and plowed for other organizations and members in the community.”
Another recipient and member of the local organization AFDL shared that, “Before relief funding from Lambi Fund came, people weren’t sure when they could plant and harvest again. This was a major concern for everyone. The Lambi Fund of Haiti helped us till the land again…we have gardens again. The emergency relief was an opportunity for us. Hurricane Sandy came during planting season and we weren’t sure how we were going to repair the land. With Lambi Fund’s support, we re-tilled the land and planted again. Now we have corn, nuts, and black beans and harvesting has begun.”
Despite these successes, many organization members shared their struggles with the current drought. For most, it has not rained since the hurricane and this has made replanting and growing food near impossible. A member of Tet-Kole Bedo said, “We’re having a hurricane of sun now. The land is dry and hard – it is impossible to plant and difficult to grow feed for animal husbandry projects.” He continued on explaining, “In January everyone was ready to plant, but there was no rain. So we wait. We keep waiting for the rain to come.”
It is external circumstances like these that make farming in Haiti difficult. The environment and increasing unpredictability of precipitation leave impoverished farmers at the mercy of the land. Given these realities, Lambi Fund is working with organizations on capacity building so that they can work to address these vulnerabilities (through irrigation canals and mobile water pumps, for example). When organizations begin advocating and petitioning the government for policies that will benefit the community, it is then that key concerns begin to be resolved.
A member of OFJ explained the value of organizing best when she said, “At first, our husbands would always ask, ‘Why are you part of that organization? It takes up too much time.’ Then we received assistance from the Lambi Fund of Haiti [for goat breeding efforts] and they began to see our projects and the impact. Now our husbands will ask – ‘What are you doing home? Go to your meeting!’ They see the value of our work and want to be organized too.”
In this line of work, you are bound to encounter setbacks from time to time. Now is one of those occasions. As you may very well be aware, Hurricane Sandy swept through the Caribbean and Eastern Coast of the United States in late October. Severe damage was wrought. While the brunt of the storm thankfully bi-passed Haiti, it rained heavily for four days straight. In a country home to severe deforestation and minimal water management capacity, the flooding was severe. So severe in fact that widespread loss of crops and livestock has been reported throughout the country. In the South, farmers lost nearly 70% of their crops. For impoverished farmers who depend on agriculture for subsistence, this has been devastating news.
In response, the Lambi Fund of Haiti has been working with community organizations throughout the country since the storm. So far, 13 grassroots organizations have been identified that qualify for emergency relief grants. These grants will go straight to Haitians hit by the storm to help:
Organizations will also prepare soil for planting, repair irrigation canals as necessary and purchase seeds that do not require a long time to harvest (such as beans, vegetables and corn). Groups with animal husbandry projects will also be provided with the requisite funding to replace livestock that were lost in the storm.
Lambi Fund’s field monitors have also been in contact with over 50 other community organizations that may qualify for similar emergency relief. These groups will be provided with the resources necessary to get back on their feet as well.
Obviously, a natural disaster like this is an unforeseen expense that we at Lambi Fund are working as hard as possible to meet. Hopefully through continued support from people like you, we can help curb the impending food crisis as much as possible and keep impoverished Haitians’ incomes flowing.
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