Leo Andres Pablo Julson was born in Merceron, in the Haitian commune of Thomazeau. He lost his mother at the age of ten, an event that marked him deeply. He was forced to quit school shortly after her death to help his father in the fields and remembers working long hours by his side. Their hard work did not pay off as they would have liked – life as a farmer was difficult and their agricultural production remained low.
Today, as a rice farmer in one of Feed the Future West/WINNER’s intervention areas, Leo has seen a dramatic improvement in his family’s way of life. The FtF West/WINNER project is a five year, USAID-funded project in Haiti, and thanks to the project’s assistance, Leo is now a farmer filled with self-confidence and hope for the future. Leo is a member of the FEDEPAT (Federation for the Development of the Thomazeau Plain) farmers’ association, and before the arrival of the FtF West/WINNER project, he was one of many farmers whose rice production yields barely reached two tons per hectare. After implementing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a method of rice cultivation that has been adopted in 40 countries around the world and that allows farmers to double their yields while using fewer seeds and significantly less water and fertilizers, Leo’s yields more than doubled. “I would have never imagined that it was possible for me to harvest five to six tons of rice on one single hectare of land – it’s such an extraordinary feat for me,” he says with delight.
The Society for the Transformation of Food-Processing Products (SOTRAPAL S.A) is an association created by GIKEN (a private Haitian company) and the Coopérative of Transformation of Food-Processing Products (COTRAPAL) comprised of the Association of Progressive Citizens for the Development of Duvier (ACPDD) and the Organization of Young People for the Development of Célicourt (OJEUDEC). ACPDD and OJEUDEC are beneficiaries of USAID Haiti’s Feed the Future West/WINNER project. SOTRAPAL, S.A. focuses on the processing of corn, rice, potatoes, plantains, and other agricultural products.
Haiti currently imports more than one billion dollars of its food products. GIKEN plans to invest $2.5 million dollars in this enterprise. SOTRAPAL’s business plan aims for an annual revenue of $1.5 million dollars, which with annual increases, will double after ten years.
In April 2013, the Feed the Future West/WINNER project, a five-year USAID funded project, began a program to upscale the dissemination of modern agricultural practices in its areas of intervention. Even though thousands of farmers are reached by the project’s agricultural campaigns, there are thousands more that continue to practice archaic agricultural techniques, which results in low yields and incomes. It was therefore necessary to find a way to reach a greater number of farmers, and a range of activities have been used to do this, including: sound-trucks with agricultural and environmental messages, community radio shows, and community gatherings – an approach that has proven to be most successful thanks to the use of videos. Participants have determined that videos are much more conducive to learning and changing old practices, making it easier to see the benefits of the modern agricultural techniques being explained.
« Agriculture, Business of the Future », a radio and television program for agricultural development
The success Michel Dorléan has experienced in marketing flowers is due in large part to his perserverance and courage, but also to his wonderful performance on the radio-television program produced by the Feed the Future West/WINNER Project, financed by USAID, and aired on Radio Télé Métropole, a radio and TV station broadcasting from the Haitian capital.
Since June 2012, the project has allowed beneficiaries and public-private partners to share their experiences with the general public on a program on the radio TV network Métropole. The program, « Agriculture, Business of the Future », is designed to showcase agricultural techniques advocated by the FTF West/WINNER Project, in collaboration with government entities, and private sector partners.
Michel Dorléan, after being the special guest for the « Agriculture, Business of the Future » show, received 75 phone calls and visits from people of various backgrounds including businessmen and women, managers and owners of flower shops, famers, and farmer associations. Better still, he was able to sign contracts that allowed him to sell his entire flower stock grown in his greenhouse the previous season : « I remember that after the program on technical innovations in June 2012, I was so surprised by the effect it had on people. We had so many visits, not to mention a rapid increase in sales. »
Lynda Despas, a 41 year old single mother, lived in the Haitian capital with her son in a small house out of which she also operated a small grocery store. During the earthquake of January 2010, her house collapsed on her and her son. Miraculously, they were both rescued, but were left with no way to provide for themselves in the city amongst the rubble of their former life. Lynda and her son left Port-au-Prince with only the clothes on their backs to return to their home village of Bethel, in the Matheux region. Lynda perservered and quickly engaged in community activities with the Groupe de Femmes Vaillantes de Bethel (GFVB), an association whose goals are to support women in Bethel in the areas of literacy, community development, and agriculture, and that brings together about 100 female members. Her dedication and leadership was a clear example to others, and she is today president of the association.
Under Lynda’s leadership, this same drive and ambition for a better future led GFVB to work with the USAID-funded Feed the Future West/WINNER project in 2011, to receive essential training for organization members in: improved agricultural practices, management of input supply stores (BIA) including inventory management, business skills, leadership skills, and small farm management. “With FTF West/WINNER’s support, association members now have a totally different concept of agricultural work: they take it on as their primary occupation to support their families and improve their living conditions", Lynda explained. Thanks to these trainings, members also learned the critical role women can have in agriculture.