Planting Citrus, Coffee, and Avocado Trees with the UNDP

In May 2018, SolKomYo began their project with the Small Grants Programme of the UNDP. This project is focused on climate change resilience by promoting climate-smart agriculture practices and sustainable energy solutions. The SolKomYo team is leading this work to improve climate-smart agricultural practices among community members in the northeast of Haiti. We are working specifically with grassroots agricultural organizations in Dilair and Acuil de Pins in the community of Ouanaminhte. In the agricultural portion of the project, there are 18 participants from Dilaire and 14 participants from Acuil de Pins.

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Participants of the workshops are from grassroots agricultural organizations and represent both female and male participants.

Thus far, they have completed four capacity-building trainings:

  • Climate-change adaptation strategies
  • Principles and techniques in agro-ecology
  • Workshops on implementation techniques for nurseries
  • Soil preparation

Reforestation is part of agro-ecology, and the team is planting mango trees, coffee trees, citrus trees, and trees that make charcoal.

The project is very practical; these are the tools received by participants and the beneficiaries putting them to use.

The team received a set of tools to distribute to the beneficiaries, including a rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow, and specific guidance on how to best prepare for and conduct the workshops. This Thursday, SolKomYo will conduct trainings around filling soil bags, Seed sowing, and nursery training plans. At the start of next month, the team will conduct follow-up visits with the beneficiaries to observe how the nurseries are faring.

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SolKomYo Employees Evens and Karl provide capacity-building workshops to the beneficiaries.

 This is a great opportunity for our beneficiaries to learn practical techniques on climate-smart agricultural practices. Participants have proclaimed how much they enjoy the training and are furthering their knowledge of nursery maintenance.  In the 2nd phase of the project, the SolKomYo team will introduce solar energy and entrepreneurial solutions in the community of Ouanaminthe.

This is a great partnership between SolKomYo and the UNDP and we’re excited for the upcoming months!

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Building Unity

Last weekend, Solisyon Kominote Yo had a field excursion with its youth group and financial literacy group. We included pertinent discussions while having some time for laughter and exploration while visiting Fort Liberte. UJANE – Union de Jeunes Association de Nord Est – and AJF – Assosasyon de Jeunes Formateurs – linked together for a day filled with inspiration and practical lessons.

UJANE met to discuss the progress of their bracelet business as they were able to sell USD $120 worth of bracelets over the past few months. They identified the following points to focus on in order to improve their business:

  • Design: Bracelets of single color sell more
  • Impact: Important to collect data to measure their impact – i.e. how many bottles they have collected (1 plastic bottle makes 2 bracelets, and on that same day we collected over 20 plastic bottles!)
  • Marketing: Enhance story-telling component – create a tag to accompany the bracelet that tells their story.
  • Branding: Need to create a brand name

They also asked some important questions, on whether they could have access to a more regular market to sell their bracelets. Unfortunately, right now the only transport we have for the bracelets are those who travel to and from the States.

We also shared with them a handmade tool that allows them to cut the plastic more efficiently, which they will build in the coming weeks.

They are very excited about this entrepreneurial opportunity and recognize the opportunity it has to remove plastic from the environment through art! They are eager to make more bracelets so they can participate in more trainings to learn a variety of pieces they can make out of the plastic.

Please reach out to olivia@cesolutions.org if you are interested in purchasing a bracelet.

We also had a meeting with the Association of Young Trainers, who had their monthly community savings bank meeting and revisited the rules within their group. They have been together for over 2 years and have accumulatively saved over 30,000 gourdes (USD $500)! They are eager to continue advancing their professional development and asked about an opportunity for an information technology course and an additional financial literacy train the trainer program.

SolKomYo encouraged them to use some of their savings from their community savings bank to jointly invest in a course they can complete together, an example of how SolKomYo encourages community actors to be agents of change and helps to identify innovative financing solutions to achieve their goals.

After these meetings, the group came together and we had a lively discussion around themes around respect, responsibility, and culture. Examples of prompts included: What is our role as youth in the household? What is the role of money and how can we manage it? Or what do we love about our culture and what must we do to value it? We all sat around a tree as we discussed these topics – to have an opportunity for youth to share and reflect on these subjects is an invaluable opportunity for peer to peer learning that SolKomYo strives to cultivate.

All in all, it was a day of exploration leaving with added insight into the future leaders of tomorrow.

 

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Members of UJANE discuss pertinent questions about life, culture, and their roles and responsibilities as youth. 

 

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!

The Leadership We Are Talking About

The time has arrived – our bi-annual meeting with our community entrepreneurs (ACs)! After reflections from recent exchanges with our ACs – from repairing water pumps and providing over 1000 community members access to safe drinking water, to searching for solutions to the outbreak of cholera in the northeast of Haiti, to creating “city of lights” in communities by providing solar energy to hundreds of households  – we realize that our community entrepreneurs are true leaders in their community. It is our duty to cultivate this potential and develop the capacity of our entrepreneurs to understand the priorities of the community and identify appropriate solutions to address them.

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SolKomYo Coordinator, Antonio Vixama, presents the strategy of our CAFs (Self-Financed Community Banks) and how it helps communities strengthen their financial security.

During the bi-annual meeting, we facilitated this process by presenting a tool that will better equip the ACs to learn about their communities, the organizations that exist, and the needs of the community members. As Solkomyo, we do not want to solely enter a community and introduce new initiatives that are already being acted upon by local counterparts. We recognize that it is a much more powerful, sustainable approach to work with the organizations that already exist to help them achieve their goals. We introduce tools and training that better equip these organizations to solve their obstacles – for example, through financial literacy training and access to self-financed community banks, to projects in agriculture, to empowering the youth of the organizations to design social ventures.

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The ACs listen intently as we describe the ways in which they are leaders in their communities.

For that, we created a survey in which the ACs can assess the organizations that work in the communities, recognize their strengths, as well as understand the challenges they face. This will include surveys with youth groups, agricultural groups, female merchants, and government offices. The ACs will also ask specific questions about the local needs of the community in energy, water, and cooking, for example. This will allow SolKomYo to map the community and understand where and what can be leveraged in order to empower the work of the communities and increase community organizations’ self-sufficiency, all whilst increasing the capacity of our entrepreneurs to provide these services and solutions.

This not only paints the picture of the communities in which Solkomyo works, but it demonstrates how Solkomyo works hand in hand with the community entrepreneurs to build their capacity and leadership within their communities. We do not just touch the surface of the communities in which we work, but really try to dig deep to identify committed long-term solutions to community needs.

This is how Solkomyo works, and why our community entrepreneurs and stakeholders value the work we do.  Thank you for all who share in this mission and have supported us along the way – none of it would have been possible without you.

Pump It Up

 

Nudging catalytic community impact

Solisyon Kominote Yo (Solkomyo) is a locally-owned and led Haitian social enterprise that works daily to identify priority community needs and design and implement social innovations to best serve those needs. Solkomyo was founded in 2013 by a team of inspired Haitian leaders with the strategic and financial support of CE Solutions. Since its founding, Solkomyo has focused on empowering aspiring community entrepreneurs to be profound agents of change and help them turn obstacles into opportunities in their community. The team tackles big challenges such as first-time access to energy, healthcare, and financial services. However, we should never overlook the fact that big change can often come in the form of relatively small packages.

A few months ago, Orest, a Solkomyo community entrepreneur, in Acul de Pins came to the Solkomyo leadership team to discuss a water pump that had been broken for over two years in a nearby community. Because of one broken pump, over 1,000 community members had very limited access to water. What they concluded together was that the problem wasn’t that it was impossible to repair the pump. There were technicians around and someone could theoretically buy what was needed to fix the pump right down the road. The problem was that the repair would cost $180 and no one person or family could afford to buy the parts to fix it and that no local strategy had been designed to help people pool their money. As well, even if they were to pool their money, it would take months to save up enough to pay for what was needed. In response to this, Orest and the rest of the Solkomyo team innovated a simple and elegant financing mechanism to repair the pump.

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The managing committee that is contributing to the repair of the water pump. Each month they will pay 25 gourdes to build a protection fund for the water pump. 

Solkomyo agreed that they would co-finance half of the cost to repair the pump if the community was able to raise the other half in two weeks, providing an incentive for the community to come together in a specific time period. Orest, because he is a locally trusted community member, successfully engaged 60 community members to contribute 100 gourdes (US$1.50) each, raising enough to cover the community’s investment. Solkomyo also advised that the community should be responsible if the pump needed to be repaired again. The group immediately volunteered to meet monthly and have each member pay 25 gourdes (US 20 cents) into a maintenance fund. The very next day, the pump was fixed.

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Orest, the Community Entrepreneur (far left), the keyholder of the pump (2nd from left), and Elizabeth, the Solkomyo team member (2nd from right), stand with community members after the water pump is repaired. 

This is an example of sustainable community development where the community is invested in their solutions and takes ownership. Solkomyo was able to play the catalytic role that was needed to help the community help themselves.

A few weeks ago the Solkomyo team stopped by to see how things were going. The pump was surrounded by people using it. It was a beautiful sight to see. A $90 investment, some brainwork, and teamwork is now providing over 1,000 people and 400 students at a local school access to water for the first time in two years.  And the community isn’t just using the pump, it now “owns” the pump, and with the protection fund that was created, they will ensure that the pump continues to serve the community.

Before and after the water pump was repaired in Acul de Pins. How many tanks do you see? They are all filled with drinking water for the community!

Solkomyo is inspired by community-driven solutions to development and when creative entrepreneurial approaches can be identified to solve development challenges. The key is that the community itself needs to be at the center of the solution. This is what social entrepreneurship is all about. And, although sometimes BIG solutions are needed, at other times a simple nudge can serve as a way to empower community members. We’ll keep looking for nudges and we hope you will continue to support our work.

Solutions in Disaster Relief

Welcome, 2017. We would like to introduce the New Year with an update we are very excited about, our new community group, the “Female Merchants”.

This originated from a gofundme project that we began back in October. You can click here to read the history and access the page. For a short overview, SolKomYo used the gofundme funds that were raised at the plight of a natural disaster in Haiti to reach the northern region that was seriously affected by floods.

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A house flooded from the heavy rains.

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The trash that accumulated from the flooding in neighborhoods around Ouanaminthe.

SolKomYo began a lending program with 15 females that were severely affected by the floods. They had lost all of their income-generating activities because the floods damaged their assets. We chose to invest in females because they are often the ones to manage their family’s finances.

We gave each family a lump sum to rebuild their small business, and they will repay 2% of that amount every month. With these payments, SolKomYo began a savings group for the recipients, so the money they pay back will enter their personal savings.

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The recipients of the micro-loans that SolKomYo provided to help rebuild their small income-generating activities.

We met with them on the 15th of January, and each recipient paid back the first amount. They all invested the money in a small trade to make income again and support their livelihoods. That is why we call them, the “Female Merchants”. With the savings group that SolKomYo plans to set up, they will also be able to build resiliency in the event of another natural disaster.

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The recipient who had her house flooded during the Hurricane, pictured above.

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The meeting with the beneficiaries when SolKomYo distributed the loans.

This project is an example of how a small investment into a family’s income-generating activity combined with a community financing program can be an effective way to support populations affected by natural disaster.

If you would like to continue supporting this project that is 100% sourced from crowdfunding, please feel free to contribute directly on the gofundme site or email olivia@cesolutions.org. Thank you!

Read the latest updates here:

Reflections from SolKomYo

As we close out the year with the bi-annual meeting with our 30 Community Entrepreneurs, we are reflecting on a truly eventful year for SolKomYo. It has been a momentous year where SolKomYo has built relationships, took risks and innovated, and brought new opportunities for the communities of Ouanaminthe. To name a few, we have entered new communities, trained entrepreneurs, developed the SolKomYo ak Jen (SolKomYo with Youth) portfolio, introduced new opportunities for agriculturalists, trained 10 textile workers to be financial literacy trainers, created new community savings groups, strengthened local community organizations, began a relief project, and the list continues. Meanwhile, we are developing immense capacity among the team to lead this community-led development work.

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SolKomYo team member, Elizabeth, presents the roles and responsibilities of SolKomYo during the Community Entrepreneur Meeting.

While the amount of work accomplished is important, we also strive to ensure the quality of all our work is upheld and that we are responding to community needs and creating positive impact among households. For this reason, we continuously conduct follow-up surveys and impact evaluations in the communities in which we work. We hope to strengthen individuals and organizations to become leaders in their community in the long-term and lead this change.

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Community Savings Group Leaders and SolKomYo Coordinator, Antonio Vixama, discuss the progress of the savings groups that SolKomYo has started.

In the bi-annual meeting with our Community Entrepreneurs (AC) we held last Saturday, SolKomYo discussed the program plans for next year, and also took the opportunity to receive feedback from the entrepreneurs. The ACs requested if new technologies could be introduced, if additional trainings could be offered, and if there was a possibility of beginning more agriculture projects in their communities. SolKomYo will continue to innovate to provide a variety of solutions in the communities in which we work.

The SolKomYo team and the Community Entrepreneurs meet twice a year to evaluate the work and present upcoming plans.

In the following year, we will grow our work to bring more opportunities for youth, women, textile workers, agriculturalists, and entrepreneurs. We will continue to provide individuals and organizations the means, ability, and inspiration to be empowered to lead positive change in their communities.

Thank you to everyone who has supported SolKomYo along the way, it would not be possible without your trust and collaboration. We wish you a very Happy New Year and please check back in 2017 to hear about our new initiatives!

Inspired by Youth in Ouanaminthe

In August of this year, SolKomYo started a project with 5 youth groups in Ouanaminthe. 15 youth participated in trainings in Leadership, Communication, Environment, and Natural Resource Management. After the modules, the students entered a competition in which each group designed a project that addressed an environmental problem that affected them, and then implemented this project for 3 months in their communities.

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One of the youth groups, UJANE, conducts a session with its’ members explaining the importance of the environment and natural resource management.

Last Sunday, we held the final event of the competition and heard the work that the youth had completed. A judge of 4 professional agronomists, including a representative from the Haiti Ministry of the Environment, gave feedback after each presentation and selected the winners based on the groups’ performance and impact they created in their communities.

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The youth celebrate the completion of their Environmental and Natural Resource Management Competition.

It was quite impressive hearing about what the students did during these months. The students exhibited dedication and leadership during their projects by reaching out within their communities, local schools, and community organizations. One group conducted trainings on the environment to their youth group and then together planted a citrus garden in their community. Another created a broadcast on the radio to spread the importance of environmental protection and hosted a skit in different neighborhoods around Ouanaminthe. Others brainstormed ideas to create a categorized waste disposal system in Ouanaminthe.

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The youth plan sample projects together during the SolKomYo training sessions.

During the event, the students had an opportunity to detail what they had learned from the experience, expressing how they never thought they could be leaders but after participating in the program they realized their capabilities. They saw talent within their teams and gained capacity to work with other youth. The potential and responsiveness they saw in the communities made them hopeful that with willpower, real change is possible.

During the final event, the youth groups present the work they have achieved in front of the panel of judges.

SolKomYo enjoys working with the students to share in their creativity and dedication and inspire them to be the leaders of tomorrow. This project enables the youth to become agents of change in their own community, gain leadership and teamwork abilities, and promote awareness and community action on how to protect the environment.

From the feedback SolKomYo received, the youth really enjoyed participating in the program. They had a lot of fun while also building leadership and communication skills along the way.

SolKomYo hopes to continue to engage the youth with further projects at the start of next year. Please stay tuned!

Specialists Trained in Solar and Financial Solutions

 

On Friday, August 26th, Solisyon Kominote Yo (SolKomYo) invited 11 Community Entrepreneurs to receive their certification in SolKomYo Innovations: 7 in solar certification and 6 in FOCOPI (Fund for Community Investment and Prevention) (two entrepreneurs received both of the certifications). Each Entrepreneur went through a series of trainings to become specialists in either solar energy or financial education. These entrepreneurs come from 8 different communities in the Northeast Department of Haiti.

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Specialists trained in Solar and Focopi Innovations

The Solison Kominote Yo Solar Energy Products give families light solutions in an affordable and environmentally-friendly manner. They reduce dependence on candles for light and also are safer to use for security and fire hazard reasons. The specialists are trained to raise awareness around the importance of using solar energy and make the technology accessible for remote communities to purchase the product. They also conduct individual conversations in their communities to understand the priorities that the clients have for their families.

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A campaign for solar products hosted in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.

FOCOPI is the financial services program that Solisyon Kimonote Yo offers, which includes financial education courses, savings groups formations, and specialized trainings for small business owners. This group of entrepreneurs were trained on how to make financial education accessible in their communities. They will introduce the financial literacy course to the savings groups that already exist in their communities, providing families with the knowledge to understand their family’s cash flow, how to categorize their expenses, and strategies of how to increase their savings.

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One of the Entrepreneurs gives a presentation during a FOCOPI training.

Solisyon Kominote Yo is proud to certify these 11 individuals to provide solutions to their communities. With these opportunities in place, families become more empowered to make positive changes in their lives.

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Ceremony to celebrate SolKomYo’s new specialists!

Felicitations!