Advancing Agricultural Projects In Haiti

FAKO – it’s official – the Federation of Community Agriculturalists in Ouanaminthe (Federasyon Agrikilti Kominte a Ouanaminthe). Representing 5 communal sections around Ouanaminthe (Savane au Lait, Gens De Nante, Savane Longue, Haut Maribaux, Acuil De Pins), 7 organizations, and 18 members, Solkomyo created this group of farmers to test solutions together and advance the agricultural environment in the Ouanaminthe area. The group meets once a month and undergoes additional trainings related to climate-smart agriculture techniques, natural insecticides, irrigation solutions, and practices to improve financial security, to begin! These farmers are ready to be leaders in their communities and transfer the information they learn to their community organizations.

This week, Solkomyo began a Rabbit Project with 4 of the 7 organizations within FAKO. With a training and assistance on rabbit production, Solkomyo will provide each of the organizations with 2 rabbits each with the agreement that they will build the rabbit’s shelter and be responsible for the continuous care of the rabbit.

4 of the 7 member organizations of FAKO participate in the rabbit training led by the Solkomyo Agronomist, Evens Baptiste.

Solkomyo will adopt an approach called “Economic Solidarity”, which indicates that the farmers will grow the rabbit community in a coalition, sharing benefits and cross-breeding between all of their rabbits. This way going forward, the farmers will have a support system and the supply of the rabbit market will increase.

Rain or shine, through rivers or fields, the Solkomyo team is dedicated to working hand in hand with the farmers to understand the situations they face and how to best design solutions to address those needs.

In Solkomyo’s eye, rabbits are a miracle animal for a myriad of reasons! 1. They are relatively easy to care for 2. They reproduce very quickly: in just 7 months, a Solkomyo member went from 2 to 40 rabbits! 3. The meat is very nutritious 4. The rabbit market is rather undeveloped in Haiti.

That said, Solkomyo believes that this can bring many added benefits to the community organizations, including an added source of income and a nutritious asset to their diet!

Solkomyo has also experimented with beginning clean water fisheries in the region, however they are still spotting the best regions to pilot this.

 

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Solkomyo visits a local fishery in the city of Fort Liberté to explore how this community-oriented initiative is benefiting the community while also being economically viable.

 

This program is led by Solkomyo’s Agronomist, Evens Baptiste, with the strong support of the Solkomyo Office Coordinator, Antnoio Vixama. Do stay tuned, because much more is in the making for Solkomyo’s agricultural work!

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Providing Financial Literacy to Goat Owners

The goat project that we began with the farmer cooperative, AFAEK (Asosiyasion Fanmiy Agwo Ekologik Kotlèt) in 2015 is going strong. All 66 goats were distributed at the end of the summer, and as more are born, the first redistribution is set for the end of this year. The goat owners are grateful to own a goat because they express how it will contribute to their economic well-being and support their families. Their goal is to own more goats, as well as other livestock, to strengthen their community and support the local population.

Beneficiary Derval, on the left, and beneficiary Wilfride, on the right, take pictures with their newly owned goats in April 2016.

While the goat project is underway, SolKomYo has introduced its financial security innovation, FOCOPI (Community Fund for Prevention and Investment), to the farmer cooperative. SolKomYo worked with AFAEK to select the most active community leaders and trained them in the financial literacy education training. SolKomYo designed a training that is dynamic and conversational to adapt to the realities of the goat-owners. Of the 17 members that participated, 9 were selected to become trainers. These 9 trainers will continue to spread the financial literacy knowledge to its community members.

SolKomYo member, Felix Bertrand, conducts the financial literacy training to the selected goat owners that will become trainers.

Financial literacy is important for the goat owners because it includes themes about understanding one’s cash flow and expenses, making a family budget, and learning about strategies to save. With this knowledge, community members can make informed decisions about their expenses and understand investments that will support their families for the long-term.

The 9 trainers also began the intermediate phase of the FOCOPI program, which is opening their own savings group. SolKomYo introduces the FOCOPI savings groups to provide a community-based solution to increase one’s savings. While the region of Cotelette is isolated, the FOCOPI savings group methodology allows group members to save and take out loans amongst themselves, without relying on a formal bank or outside group. By first forming a group with the 9 trainers, they will be able to learn the methodology and open savings groups in their communities, allowing the members to put into practice the strategies they learn during the financial literacy course.

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The trainers that were selected meet to form their own savings group. By learning the methodology, they will eventually be able to form additional savings groups in their communities.

The work that has been achieved with AFAEK, the farmer cooperative, represents the strong relationship that SolKomYo and the AFAEK members have reached. It is thanks to this partnership that the two organizations can implement programs such as FOCOPI that provide valuable services to its members.

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The beneficiaries that became specialists in the FOCOPI Basic Program. Now that they are trained, they will begin teaching financial literacy to other goat owners in their community.

Solisyon Kominote Yo would like to give large thanks to the support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for funding SolKomYo’s agriculture projects.

Agriculture Update

Since the Meds and Foods for Kids trainings for peanut farmers has ended, SolKomYo Agronomist Evens has continued supporting the farmer groups. After understanding that insects were a large problem on many of the farmers’ lands, Evens has been conducting natural insecticide trainings with the farmers.

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Agronomist Evens conducting an Insecticide Training

In the approach that Evens uses, an insecticide is created with the use of local leaves and household materials. He explains in detail to the groups how to make it and apply it to their crops. Evens will follow-up with the participants to see how the application is received and if the farmers have faced any challenges.

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The Insecticide Training uses accessible material, making it a practical and affordable way farmers can combat their insect problems.

This is an example of how SolKomYo strives to respond to the priority needs of its beneficiaries. By providing a practical, “Do-It-Yourself” solution, farmers are given the tools to combat these obstacles themselves.

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Farmer, Philogène St. Vil, shows the SolKomYo Team how he has used the insecticide on his rice crops.

The farmer pictured above, Philogène St. Vil, has used the insecticide three times and has already seen results on his farm. He shared the process with his neighbor too, creating change at the community level.

Sustainable agriculture in Haiti

July marks one year that Solisyon Kominote Yo partnered with the farmer’s cooperative Asosyasyon Fanmiy Agwoekolojik Kotlet (AFAEK) to begin a goat breeding project in the mountainous region of Saint Suzanne. Since the first distribution of goats in January 2016, AFAEK has distributed 55 of the 66 goats to members of AFAEK, with the batch being distributed this month. Already 7 baby goats have been born and 14 are pregnant, proving that the the project is off to a good start. The baby goats will wait 6 months until they begin to be distributed to other AFAEK members throughout the Cotelette region.

beneficiary haitiA beneficiary with his two baby goats.

salnaveSalnave, the Co-Founder of AFAEK with his goat in front of his house in Cotelette.

Before this project began, Solisyon Kominote Yo, with the support of the International Finance Corporation, were researching ways to support agricultural development outside of Ouanaminthe to address the stressing food scarcity in the northeast region of Haiti. The goat breeding project was introduced to support animal husbandry in the region and provide market access for the beneficiaries. AFAEK, the local farmer cooperative, has worked very hard to make the project a success and ensure that the beneficiaries receive extensive trainings on how to care for the goats, the proper infrastructure needed for the goats, and are also taught the best way to help a goat reproduce. The project has demonstrated the importance of innovation in the field, because when try something new it gives the possibility to create increased opportunity for the community and a new source of income for the goat owners.

goatsA beneficiary in front of the shelter that he constructed for his goat.

The project has also proved the results of a strong partnership, as Solisyon Kominote Yo is continuing to develop projects to support the community members in Cotelette, for example beginning SolkomYo’s financial services program to AFAEK members.

oliviaMembers of Solisyon Kominote Yo and AFAEK during a monthly meeting in Cotelette.

If Your House Was On A Hill

Creating Productive Land for Marginalized Landowners

Those who live on a hillside farm outside of Ouanaminthe struggle to make use of their land and become increasingly marginalized from income-generating activities. To find a solution, Solisyon Kimonte Yo partnered with Meds and Foods for Kids (MFK) to provide extensive trainings to the landowners on these plots of land, teaching them how to grow peanuts on their hillside farms. This will not only help them generate income for the farmers by selling in markets in Ouanaminthe and neighboring towns, but will also strengthen the food security of the increasingly drought-stricken northeast region of Haiti.

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Landowners of hillside plots who are participating in the peanut plant training.

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Beneficiaries participate in a training in Gen de Nantes on how to plant the seeds.

In a 6-month training program, MFK agronomists train 30 beneficiaries in Gen de Nantes and 30 beneficiaries in Savane au Lait on how to plant peanut seeds on a hillside demonstration plot. From contours, to weeding practices, to diseases to look out for, MFK teaches everything to the farmers to ensure they are able to harvest peanuts themselves. The Solisyon Kominote Yo Agronomist, Evens Baptiste, follows up with each beneficiary through the process, confirming that they start the method on their own land and are properly integrating the training sessions.

This strong partnership reflects the importance of knowledge-sharing provided by MFK, as well as the monitoring and evaluation that Solisyon Kominote Yo supports, strengthening the endurability of the program.

Thanks to the generous support of the International Finance Corporation we are able to provide innovative solutions to help improve food security in the north east region of Haiti.

Goat-Breeding Improvement Project

Solisyon Kominote Yo has started a remarkable project to bring a source of income for an isolated community in the Northeast region of Haiti, a community called Cotelette. The goat-breeding project aims to facilitate market linkages to Cotelette by providing them with a viable income-generating activity. After receiving the goats, households will realize the benefits of animal husbandry and be able to sell the goats in nearby markets.

Cotelette is an isolated mountain town, in which you have to take a motorcycle and walk by foot to get to. As a result, the population is very isolated and lacks access to markets.

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The town of Cotelette.

In July 2015, SKY partnered with Asosiasyon Fanmiy Agwo Ekologik Kotlet (AFAEK) to implement a goat-breeding improvement project in Cotelette. By working with AFAEK to provide 66 goats to 60 beneficiaries in the regions, the organization will ensure that the project beneficiaries are trained in goat rearing techniques and have 60 plots of high quality forage areas. Through the learning of innovative breeding techniques, AFAEK will extend the distribution of the 60 goats to 60 other recipients, and continue until at least 180 members of the local community own a goat.

This month, Regional Coordinator, Antioni Vixama, and Field Consultant, Olivia Zeydler, visited the town to meet with the AFAEK leaders. The meeting was held in the home of the AFAEK coordinator, where 4 members of the AFAEK team were present. The group is very organized and eager to begin the distribution of the goats. They have made a project sign and have selected their beneficiaries, 37 males and 23 females. The next steps are to attain the veterinary kits to ensure that the goats remain in good health, and to begin training the beneficiaries on goat rearing techniques.

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Meeting with AFAEK group members.

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Project sign that AFAEK made: “Pwojè Amelyorasyon Elvaj Kabrit.”

By providing individuals with a goat, it is an opportunity to transform the livelihood of the household and provide a way to generate continuous income for the family, creating a lasting impact on the community of Cotelette.

This project would not be possible without the generous support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Growing food in your backyard

posterOn Saturday October 25th we will launch an urban agriculture competition for youth. The competition is focused on identifying and awarding the most innovative youth-led projects in food security and nutrition. Haiti has one of the youngest populations in the world – 60% is under 24 years old.  The country imports more than 50% of its food and more than 1.52 million Haitians representing 15% of the population – are classified as severely food insecure

 At this competition we are expecting over 60 youth from 10 local schools and youth groups. The youth will form intervention teams and during one month they need to put in practice and innovative project to grow vegetables in the city. Each team will replicate the project in their school yards or in their homes. The winning projects will be selected on November 29th based on Innovation, Creativity, Effort and Replicability.

The youth are accompanied during the project by Solisyon Kominote Yo and Jeunes en Action. Jeunes en Action is a youth group which was formed during Ashoka Youth Venture activities in Ouanaminthe in 2013. We will keep you updated as the activities take of.

Smallholder farmers in Haiti: growing ideas to improve the access to better farming practices

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a meeting with a group of smallholder farmers from Perches, in the Nord-Est Department. After a long ride between rugged mountains and 30 minute walk, we arrived to the site. The farmers were assembled and were proudly exhibiting some of the fruits and vegetables the grow.  

10615376_689895277742408_3482431447134558707_nTime after time, at this meeting and others, women and men have shared their concerns about the difficulties to maintain their crops. One of the farmers explains:

“Our plants are dying of thirst. We always have water because we have rain and we can store the water in tanks. The problems is that we can’t take this water to the crops. We can’t use a pomp because we have no electricity. We try to do it ourselves with buckets but is exhausting and is never enough.”

Testimonies such as this describe one of the many pressing issues that these communities face on a daily basis as well as their frustration of knowing how to solve it but not having access to the resources they need to improve their farming systems.

In an attempt to get to a better understanding of the situation and recognizing that this is part of a bigger problem, SKY developed a small survey as part of a community diagnosis. The survey showed that beyond the evident lack of opportunities, these people are determined to make their voices heard and to work hard on creating sustainable changes.

To further discuss the results of the survey with the smallholder farmers, and to dig a little dipper in some of the main topics, we invited them to a meeting at SKY’s office, in Ouanaminthe. The meeting was a great identify common problems and look for solutions that can be replicated in the different communities.

All the information we collected from the diagnosis with the farmers is going to be considered for our next agriculture project, that we hope is going to reflect the messages these people have shared with us. 

We strongly believe that the only way to assure them that their demands are been heard is by starting to work on them side by side.

These people are strong, determined, and they are not alone, we are confident that in a joint effort, this project is going to improve the farmer’s access to technologies that will make their work easier and will helped them have a better control of its productive resources.

“4 seasons” are changing Haiti agriculture environment

The “4 seasons” group is made of 5 very active youngsters: Baptiste Evens, Fleuradin Rose-Gerlande, Antoine Wilner, Calixte Guepson and Saint-Ilbert Moliette.  “4 seasons” seeks to improve the yields of farmers living in the surrounding of Ouanaminthe, in the North-East of Haiti, while still preserving the environment. For that, they teach to farmers new techniques that they have learned themselves at school: farmers learn how to make natural environment-friendly fertilizer and insecticide that enables a dramatic increase in the yields while keeping the soil fertile. This initiative enables farmers’ revenues increase, and fights against rural exodus.

The team members are truly involved: they regularly go on field, where they have the opportunity to put into practice the new skills and techniques they learn during their agronomy classes. They try to create the maximum impact by training the farmers they consider the most motivated and the most likely to spread their newly acquired knowledge. They also work in collaboration with the local authorities to secure their support. They have trained 175 farmers so far, and their objective for 2014 is to reach 500 farmers. The “4 seasons” counts on the creation of a snowball effect through the fact that the farmers that they trained will become teachers themselves.

The “4 seasons” group is part of the Ashoka’s Youth Venture initiative in Ouanaminthe. As such, they have benefited from a financial support and from advice. By creating both social, environmental and economic impact in their communities, those young people are real changemakers.

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Seeds for change

Being able to grow your own food gives great independence to many individuals and families. Even when you don’t have money you can go in your garden and pick up a tomato, a cucumber and make diner. The idea is simple if individuals and families of Haiti can grow their own food they will become food independent.

Access to seeds it is often very challenging here, either the seeds are poor quality, are packed in large large quantities or are difficult to find. In this way only those who are doing large scale agriculture can access good, affordable seeds. To give you an example a can of carrots contains 500g of seeds out of which, if they are good quality, you will be able to produce up to 250,000 carrots. If you are not a large scale cooperative, probably those are way too many carrots and even if you are you need way to preserve them…

So this is where we intervene, we are able to purchase high quality seeds and re-pack them in small envelops equivalent to what a family will need. by doing this farmers can diversify their culture and provide a healthy meal for their families. Also we provide the small scale farmers with basic knowledge of what sees work better in that specific part of the year, how to plant it, how much water…etc.

To distribute the seeds we are using the network of the community advisers. They are already known very well their community and the surrounding.  Often they are asked “what solutions are they bringing next?” since they sell under the name of community solutions. This time they when they are asked they can add to solar lamps, water filters, stoves and glasses, seeds. In parallel with seed access we are also exploring drip irrigation systems and urban agriculture.

We are continuously looking into how simple solutions can transform every day life in a positive way.

t.IMG_0679 Seeds envelopes  IMG_0716    1976888_741861642515308_1670022879_n 2014-04-21 13.17.52    2014-04-21 13.17.57 2014-05-15 09.52.47    2014-05-15 09.53.05