Transforming Haiti from the countryside
IFAD President Nwanze visits Haiti in search of lasting mechanisms for food security
Haiti is strong. Haiti is hopeful. Haiti is a country with nowhere to go but up. It’s also a country in transformation – a country healing from the wounds of natural disasters, and a proud but rather overbearing history that has depleted the nation’s soils and limited its very ability to feed itself.
Focusing on providing lasting mechanisms for food security in this hard-hit Caribbean nation, and with an eye on transforming the Haitian countryside into a viable economic engine for progress and rehabilitation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is currently assessing its projects on the ground.
Leading the IFAD mission is President Kanayo F. Nwanze, who met with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive to discuss food security and long-term investments for the people of the Haitian countryside.
“I come here on behalf of IFAD in solidarity with the people of Haiti after the tragedy of January 12. We were here before the quake, and we will be here afterwards. IFAD does not have projects in Haiti, rather, we finance the projects proposed by the people,” said Nwanze in his meeting with the Prime Minister. “My presence here is also to discuss with the government of Haiti the need for sustainable rural development.”
Moving into the countryside later that day, President Nwanze met with the IFAD-funded Rural Credit and Savings Association, where local farmers are leveraging small loans (of anywhere from US$10 to $100) to build their businesses and truly transform their work into a genuine business enterprise.
President Nwanze encouraged the rural business people who were in the meeting (about 20 all in all) to continue their good work and reinvest in themselves.
The small rural bank is also following one of the most essential and simple rules of lending: know your customer. They only lend to people within the community, thus minimizing risk, and maximizing the potential for intensive investment in local farms. And it’s working, with a repayment rate of upwards of 96 per cent.
But transformation extends beyond simply looking for new credit and new markets. Transformation is also about creating value-added products. And later that day, Nwanze had a meeting with the Progressive Women’s Producers Organization of Mirebalais to learn about how this innovative group of women is taking simple fruit to make marmalades, liquors and juices that they are selling in local markets at a profit.
“We found somebody that gave us the training to transform the fruit. We used to waste a lot of fruit, with our transformation project we can make sure that the fruit lasts longer,” said Lisebette Gaston, Coordinator of the producer’s organization. “My hope is that we can be able one day to export our products at a national and international level.”
The Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division, Josefina Stubbs, was especially interested in the work of this strong women’s group.
“Women need to be the key drivers in organizations like the Rural Credit and Savings Association, as well as for this group of women’s producers,” said Stubbs. “Our experience teaches us that the best investment in rural areas is an investment in the women. After all, they are the ones that nurture and develop these communities.”
To finish up their first day in Haiti, President Nwanze and Director Stubbs met with the project coordinators from the IFAD-co-financed projects in Haiti to discuss their progress and look for new ways to address key initiatives in rural development in Haiti, namely transforming the countryside into the entrepreneurial engine that will power the nation for the next 20 years.