Agriculture remains the mainstay of Haiti’s economy, even after decades of marginalization and decline. Many NGOs working there recognize the importance of agriculture and believe that sustainable development in Haiti must focus on the revitalization of this key sector. In a country where the vast majority of citizens live below the poverty line, and farming families survive on $2 per day, improvements in agriculture have the power to transform lives.
An American NGO called Love A Child places a priority on agriculture in Haiti and has recently celebrated the opening of a new project in Fond Parisien. The project, supported by the USAPEEC International Poultry Development Program and called the Poul Mirak (Miracle Chicken) Cooperative Farm, opened with a dedication ceremony in September 2014. The Poul Mirak project is composed of nine chicken coops. Each coop will hold approximately 500 chickens, which will be cared for and maintained by cooperative members. One cycle of chickens takes six weeks to mature. The goal of the project is to sell 500 chickens per week at the nearby local marketplace. This will provide a unique source of sustainable income for local Haitian farming families.
The members of this new poultry cooperative have received extensive training. Ongoing mentoring will also be provided by Love A Child staff, as well as staff from Harrison Poultry in Georgia, USA. This mentorship is intended to serve as a resource for helping Haitians improve their livelihoods in the long term. Cooperative members will bear all of the responsibility of costs and labour to run the farm, and they will also share equally in the profits. The cooperative is a great model for sustainability, because it allows the members to share in the risks as well as the benefits. Sharing responsibility also builds trust between members. The cooperative will help to improve food security for families in Fond Parisien, create economic opportunity, and contribute towards a more trusting and collaborative community environment.
The Poul Mirak Cooperative Farm is a large undertaking and is not without risks. However, Love A Child implemented a smaller chicken cooperative program in 2013 that proved to be a success. In that project, farmers raised and sold 500 chickens within six weeks and made a profit of about $1.39 USD from the sale of each chicken. It is expected that this newly expanded project will provide even more opportunity for improved food security and improved incomes.
The Poul Mirak project is innovative through its cooperative model that is proven to help create jobs and improve livelihoods. The farm is located right next to the marketplace, which is important in Haiti because access to markets can be a serious challenge. Of the nine chicken coops, six coops will raise chicks simultaneously and chickens will be sold at market at six weeks of age. The 2013 project raised 500 chickens in six weeks, while this new, expanded project aims to raise 500 chickens every week. It is an aggressive goal, but one that will provide immense benefits to farmers if it can be achieved.
Poul Mirak offers locals in the community of Fond Parisien an opportunity to buy fresh, protein-rich food for their families, through raising and selling layers for eggs and broilers for meat. It also has the potential to provide a new model of sustainability in Haiti, one that shows farmers that chicken cooperatives can produce great economic results.