Mirlande is a young woman in her early thirties living in the Gonaives area. When I visited AFAGM, she was one of the members who received training on running a small business and she is a beneficiary of the credit project of AFAGM. Mirlande said she would not miss any of her meetings because it is a life source where her hopes are being realized, one step at the time. She had a small revenue producing activity selling used clothing, but she could not invest in a bale of clothing. She only had a few pieces at the time. With her new loan, she has purchased a bale of clothing that has her business advance multifold.
Mirlande is only one of 301 women who are now growing their businesses. AFAGM is in its sixth lending cycle with 92% on-time reimbursement from the first cycle that benefited from a $5,000.00 Gourdes (HTG) loan repaid at a 2% interest. The current cycle has 48 beneficiaries. Their small enterprises are broad and diversified in portfolio. The small businesses range from agricultural products or cooked food to cosmetic and energy products - like gas for cooking or oil for engines. The 48 beneficiaries of this cycle have reported the following types of revenue producing activities:
Type of activity %
Food consumption 62Clothing 25Beauty products 8Energy related 4Animal feed 1
Lambi Fund has 10 partners in rural Haiti managing small loans to planters and rural women helpting to create revenue to sustain themselves while providing a needed service and other basic necessities through their small businesses. These ten organizations are now managing $4,857,508.00 (HTG) and has assisted 1,538 small businesses in flourishing and enriching the families and communities where they are located.
AFAGM, Association of Women in Action of Gros Morne, is well deserving of its name for these women who are taking charge everyday and redefining their position in the community and in the scale of security and safety. They are active participants in the economy and olay an immense role in reducing poverty among their communities.
Formed in 1975, the Organization of the Peasants of Boula (OPB) has a goal to improve the economic and social conditions of the members and the region. It began its agricultural activities with 50 members and now has a count of 248 (120 men and 128 women). In general, the region lacks potable water, roads for access, education and health care. The greatest problem the farmers encounter is timely tilling of the soil to benefit from the rainy season for planting and harvest for their income. For this reason, they proposed to develop an ox-plow service to facilitate their timely planting as well as increase the acreage used for agricultural production, thereby increasing income and revenue for all members and community dwellers.
The Lambi Fund, in partnership with OPB, will purchase 4 pairs of cows and 3 ox-plows. The organization is responsible for the feeding of the animals. They will develop grazing areas as well as produce feed reinforced with nutrients for the meager months and dry seasons. In addition, the membership will benefit from management, animal husbandry and nursery training that will take place throughout the 18 months of the implementation phase. The project will provide OPB with the means of financing and give technical assistance to assure sustainability of the service . A community credit fund is attached to the project to build the capacity of the planters to purchase the ox plow services at the initial stages. OPB will also produce 20,000 seedlings to plant in the area they serve.
The population of Boula was limited in their capacity to improve their income and revenue, labor and till more acreage and thus improve the conditions for planters and their families that make up over 65% of the work in the area. This initiative is an enterprise that will touch the lives and livelihood of planters and their peasant families in profound ways. It will increase access to goods and services such as school and health care that has to be paid for and it will increase production of food in a time when food security is a major concern throughout the country.
This began implementation in April of 2014 after a full year of investigation, organizational capacity building and training. We look forward to keeping you informed on one of the ways Lambi Fund, in partnership with rural Haiti, develops commuunity-run enterprises that makes a different in the life of the community.
When OBS partnered with the Lambi Fund of Haiti over 10 years ago to build a grain mill which would be run and operated by the organization member Jean V. It was one of the first project addressing alimentation and improved working conditions for farmers. Often they had to walk for half a day to grind their grain, transform into cereal for the market. Their sole revenue would take the whole family to assure the harvest. Children left school to carry grains to the mill. far away. One woman, Marie Denise said she would have to wake in the middle of the night to make it to the mill. Once the lines were so long she had to return home without grinding for the market.
Jean V. had to travel south to Kanperin to learn how to operate the new machine, vastly different than the hand grinder they were using then. Jean lives in the Artibonite, a region in North West Haiti and had agreed to go to the only training center in Kanperin in the South. This training was not the only one. As the Lambi Fund team assessed and evaluated the workshops’ impact, it became evident that the teams trained to operate and maintain the mills needed to receive training. In addition , the organization needed a wider range of skill sets, including marketing, pricing and customer service.Today we are partnering with AJSDC in the Latibonite region adjacent to Gros Morne, the home of OBS. It would take members of AJSDC over 10 hours to get to Kanperin to obtain training. Today it is the experienced OBS mechanics that have trained the new mechanics for AJSDC. OBS serves as trainers, a model for hands on learning, model of what can be accomplished. The experienced mechanics assure the overall functioning of the mill, troubleshooting when in need of repair. OBS today accounts for three Milling machines, with capacity to pick up and deliver the grainss transformed to millet, corn meal and rice.
All participants, including the facilitators benefit from the experience. The members responsible for training other partner organizations face the occasional challenge to adapt their curriculum to the specific needs of a new community. Their experience as peer educators also strengthens their understanding of the realities in which they live, the commonality of some issues and the singularity of others. The process transforms them into experts in the subject matter and in understanding and addressing the productive capacity and challenges of partner organizations. This peer exchange model also reinforces the point that sustainability also means continuous learning and skills building
The mills no longer sit idle as had been the case in the past, when the motor breaks down, or if they need a spare part, they are able to fix the problem rapidly thanks to the support of their partner organization which is located in the area and which has most probably addressed and resolved these problems. This makes it possible for the mills to operate more frequently and more efficiently making it possible for the organizations to offer better service with greater profitability.
The essential idea is that peer educators and learners share some degree of common experience and desire to help and learn from one another. Peer education programs enable people to gain the knowledge and skills to strengthen their communities, advocate for themselves and their needs and assert more control over their lives.Since the peer to peer training has worked very well with mill operations, the Lambi Fund has realized cost savings in estabishing the many mills that rural farmers are developing and will continue to build as rural farmers increase their productivity in the field.
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, the Lambi Fund of Haiti 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 humanss 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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