“Many hands make light work.” In Haiti’s Northwest Department, this is more than just a common saying. This is the principle behind the work that Foods Resource Bank supports through CWS and other partners.
I recently traveled to Haiti and met with some of the cooperatives that the program supports. Through the work of local partner SKDE – translated to the Center for Christian Integrated Development – the program supports 12 cooperatives that reach nearly 5,000 families.
A recent internal evaluation of FRB’s Haiti-Northwest program shows that its community cooperatives are helping their members make significant improvements in their lives and livelihoods.
In an area of the country with little government presence, farmer-run cooperatives in the Northwest and Artibonite departments of Haiti help their male and female members to build more resilient households,livelihoods and communities. The program especially focuses on women in their entrepreneurial efforts so that they have greater access to credit, training, and leadership formation opportunities.
Please pray for the people of Haiti as they struggle with the effects of multiple droughts and resultant severe food shortages. This article from the BBC covers another aspect of desperation from lack of prospects: risking their lives on crowded boats as they seek work elsewhere. It mentions the area of Haiti where FRB's Haiti-Northwest program is working to help farmer cooperatives achieve food security in the face of natural disaster.
Every year thousands of Haitians risk their lives trying to make the perilous sea voyage from their country to one of its wealthier Caribbean neighbours in a bid for a better life.
They cram themselves into small boats which are often far from seaworthy. They run the risk of capsizing or being picked up by coastguard patrols.
Many feel this is their only option in a country which is not only the poorest in the western hemisphere but which was further destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 2010.
People from all over Haiti head to the north-west of the island to get onto these boats to leave their homeland, but most are from this impoverished region itself.
Because there is little government presence where FRB’s Haiti-Northwest program is working, local people understand the need to organize for the protection, development and growth of their communities. The twelve program communities have created cooperatives which address the varied needs and concerns of its members.
Training Co-ops provide training on many topics, among them appropriate agricultural techniques like intercropping as a way to take the best advantage of available land and ensure that, if one crop fails, the others might survive. More farmers are planting peanuts, congo beans (pigeon peas), and root crops like manioc (cassava) and sweet potato because of their excellent survival rates.
Members of farmer cooperatives in FRB’s Haiti-Northwest program spoke with recent FRB visitors about how much the program’s co-ops mean in their lives:
Delisia remembers breaking down in tears when her children were kicked out of school for non-payment of fees. She felt she would have to choose between her children’s education and her livestock. It was a difficult situation. She had livestock, but they weren't ready for market and would fetch a low price if she was forced to sell them. The sale would cover school fees but she wouldn't have any money left over to purchase new animals for fattening.