Five Ways Farmers in Haiti Are Escaping the Poverty Cycle
In Haiti, we are working with thousands of farmers like Jasper in Savanette. They do not want to be ‘given’ help – they want the opportunity to lead their own community development processes.
Community participation and leadership are essential for any kind of sustainable change. Groundswell International and our local partners support family farmers to build strong, democratically run farmers’ organizations.
In Haiti specifically, we support a gwoupman (solidarity groups of 8-15 farmers) community-building model through a six-step process. Rural communities form three layers of democratic, action-based committees (local village, larger community, and district). The process strengthens trust and solidarity creating cohesive farmers’ organizations for years to come.
The core initiatives and corresponding committees that most farmers’ organizations implement and sustain are:
Agroecological Techniques: Volunteer Agricultural Promoters support other farmers to learn techniques that regenerate soil, manage rainwater, and improve food security through increased crop production and diversification.
- Community Seed Banks: Farmers select and store quality local seeds, gaining reliable access to seeds for planting. They receive loans of seed that they must repay in kind with interest, within one harvest season. This enables the seed banks to grow.
- Grain Banks: A farmer organization co-op stores and sells locally produced grain, escaping the exploitation of middlemen. Revenue is used to expand the amount of grain stored and to meet other community priorities.
- Farmer-Managed Revolving Funds provide additional small loans for agricultural investments. Farmers contribute their own funds each month to the fund. When it is their turn they receive roughly a $30 loan that they re-invest into their own farms or livestock, resulting in improved food security and income. All loans are repaid with 2% monthly interest, usually within a 6-month period. Again, farmers escape the exploitation of middlemen, who charge up to 200% interest a year!
- Health: Community elected health promoters provide basic health checks and referrals to prevent diseases, with a special focus on hand washing, latrine use and proper water treatment techniques.
After 5-6 years, these already successful initiatives can be sustained and grown through the farmer organization structure, managed by rural families, who now have yearly access to all these benefits!