Since 2010, more than 1,300 cooperative farmers in southwest Haiti have been defining what participatory development means, and are transforming their community on their own terms. With support from Crossroads (CCCI) and Productive Cooperatives Haiti (PCH), Coopérative des Planteurs de Gorgette was established in the community of Duchity four years ago. The members of this new cooperative had experienced sharp declines in agricultural production for years, so they received badly needed training in improved cultivation techniques and in diversifying their crops.
Within a few short years, cooperative members have been able to achieve a reliable level of food security. Families now grow higher yields of staple crops and plant many more crop types, with vegetables being especially popular. Farms in Duchity have become so bountiful that the local market now bursts with a wider range of fruits and vegetables than people have ever been seen before. Duchity has begun to attract interested buyers from larger nearby cities, and today the community is known in southwestern Haiti for its fresh, quality vegetables. However, the benefits of this development model go much further than simply strengthening local food security.
Members of Coopérative des Planteurs de Gorgette also received training in cooperative principles, democratic values, transparency and accountability, and business skills. The cooperative is owned and operated by its members, meaning that everyone benefits equally from the profits. Leaders are elected by the membership and are held accountable through regular cooperative meetings. The result is a transparent and democratic local infrastructure for conducting income-generating activities, promoting equality between members, and establishing a forum for community discussion.
In Duchity, the cooperative has become a place where members can come together to discuss the issues affecting their community and articulate their own vision for the future. Very often in development projects, the most important voices – those of the people who are supposed to benefit – are not heard. However, the cooperative allows for those voices to take a leadership role. Cooperative members are not only participants; as the owners of the organization, they are collectively the decision-makers. Taking a decision-making role creates a sense of confidence, self-worth, and motivation to succeed.
The social transformation and capacity building of the cooperative, coupled with agricultural success, has resulted in remarkable individual and community transformation in Duchity. The skills, knowledge, and abilities of the people have been strengthened in a manner that has allowed them to overcome their exclusion and dependency. The people of this cooperative have come to understand the fundamental concept that they have the right and the ability to be the leaders of their own development.
Popular stories from Haiti are often ones of poverty and hopelessness. However, Coopérative des Planteurs de Gorgette has written a new story for itself of trust, skill, and unity. These days, the cooperative discusses how to take their agricultural production to a higher level and seek out new markets. This is significant, because it means they believe they can do it, and more importantly, it means they have the ability to work out their own solutions to their adversities.
This farming cooperative has proven that there is fertile ground in Haiti, and good seeds are being sown. With the participatory cooperative model, the vision of the people of Haiti can become a reality.
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