Haiti has experienced severe environmental degradation over the past three decades, leading to serious agricultural and economic decline. This decline often makes it difficult and very costly for local smallholder farmers to introduce more sophisticated agricultural techniques. The consequence is that this once fertile nation now relies on imports for 50% of its food needs. However, one Canadian NGO has devised a new idea to improve agricultural production.
International Sustainable Community Assistance (ISCA) has been working on a pilot poultry production project in Haiti that offers a simple solution. Working with a local organization called Productive Cooperatives Haiti (PCH), they have provided initial start-up resources to local farmers in a community called Zoranger, and helped them to begin producing poultry for market.
Zoranger is a rural village about an hour’s drive north of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. This village was chosen for the pilot project because families in the area already raised their own livestock on a small scale, and the community is located close to feed mills and a local poultry processing company called Haiti Broilers. In addition, Zoranger lies close to Haiti’s main highway, meaning there is easy access to local and urban markets.
ISCA gave participating families supplies and taught them how to build their own chicken coop that protects chicks against the elements and local pests. Families were trained in how to manage inputs, provide adequate feed and water, and manage the health of their chickens. The pilot was a resounding success, and has taken on a life of its own. With the initial start-up supplies and training, every participating family has raised and sold all of their chickens and used their profits to continue raising new rounds of chicks. The chickens are quite popular and have rapidly become known for their quality meat and flavour at a great value. People have even begun travelling from surrounding villages to purchase chickens from Zoranger’s farmers.
This project is notable for its successes, but also for the unique approach that ISCA and PCH used to implement it. These two partners were invited to work in Zoranger by a local community group, who took a leading role in helping to decide which families would participate in the pilot. The families themselves helped ISCA to make project decisions and helped to construct the chicken coops. Local veterinary agents from the community were trained in how to identify health issues, basic treatment techniques, and how to provide coaching to farmers. In every way, the project was tailored to the specific needs and goals of this little farming community.
The result is a truly community-driven project in which the participants feel empowered and motivated to ensure the project is a success. The change in Zoranger is evident; farmers no longer talk only about growing enough to eat. They make enough from the sale of their chickens to pay for school and health fees and support their family. They talk of starting a poultry cooperative that other local farmers can join, and seeking out larger markets to sell their chickens. These early producing families could become the start of a successful, community-led business that improves the livelihoods of farming families in Zoranger.
Images from www.isca-aidc.ca except the first, which is by the author.