Maximizing Resources

Agriculture is the largest sector of the Haitian economy, employing roughly two-thirds of the labor force but accounting for only about one-fourth of the gross domestic product (GDP). Although only one-fifth of the land is considered suitable for agriculture, more than two-fifths is under cultivation. Major problems include soil erosion (particularly on mountain slopes, which are seldom terraced), recurrent drought, and an absence of irrigation.

Many farmers concentrate on subsistence crops, including cassava (manioc), plantains and bananas, corn (maize), yams and sweet potatoes, and rice. Some foodstuffs are sold in rural markets and along roads. A mild arabica coffee is Haiti’s main cash crop. Haitian farmers sell it through a system of intermediaries, speculators, and merchant houses. Sugarcane is the second major cash crop, but since the late 1970s Haiti has been a net importer of sugar.

This generation of Fond des Blancs' young people, and perhaps the entire country, have lost interest in subsistence farming. Even when subsistence farming was at its peak in Haiti, the situation was dire; moreover, as the next generation moves away from it, there may be even more scarcity of production and a greater need for foreign aid, which is already significant and damaging to the country's economy. Due to a new generation's desire to find alternative ways to make a living, new means must be developed to meet the increased demand. Agriculture as a viable and profitable source of income that can support an individual and a community in the future must be reimagined.

One of the benefits of living in the tropics is that you can grow almost anything at any time of year. We're working to change the way farming is done in Haiti, particularly in rural communities. We want to use every arable piece of land in the Fond des Blancs area and beyond with modern mechanized farming techniques. The agricultural cooperative's main goal is to create an environment in which participating farmers can increase their current harvest. Through shared equipment, irrigation, quality seed, marketing, and technical support, the coop will provide mechanized land preparation, planting, and harvesting.

Project goals and objectives: The goals for this agricultural coop are simple and self-evident for any farming activity. We want to radically reshape the farming practices and methods by introducing modern farming techniques and equipment.

  1. Establish the agricultural coop with the resources that an average farmer could never afford on his own and use those resources and land to increase production many times over what a farmer could do on their own as subsistence farmers.

  2. Enlist the farmers with land either owned or leased that are in proximity to water so that a mobile irrigation system can provided the needed water to ensure successful crops.

  3. Set the farming agenda in cooperation with the farmers and agronomist technicians.

  4. There will not be any major change in terms of the type of crop that will be grown. There will be legumes (Haricot, Pois-Congo, Pois de Souche), cereals (Corn, Sorgho), roots (sweet potatoes, ‘manioc,’ ‘igname,’ peanut). These crops are consumed locally and throughout the country.

  5. Crop selections and best practice methods will be establish during training and discussion sessions with the technicians.

  6. Plan with a view of producing four harvests a year instead of the traditional two.

This project began in 2012, and the results have been fantastic. We quadrupled the rate, quantity, and quality of production for the entire cooperative and community by using mechanized farming and irrigation. We currently farm over 800 acres and plan to grow to over 2000 acres in the near future.