Haitian farmers adopt the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and more than double their yields
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.
This increase in yields generated revenues of more than $1,000 each planting season – double what Leo made in previous seasons. As a husband and father of a three-month old, this increase in revenues allowed him to improve his family’s quality of life and start planning for their future. “My family’s living condition has greatly improved, and now I can hope for a better future for my son, including allowing him to have a good quality education. I have also been able to acquire a motorcycle, which has made life easier for my family and allows me to transport produce more easily,” explains Leo.
Leo is a big proponent of the SRI method and as a certified Master Farmer, is working hard to promote this technique among farmers in his community. He explains, “This experience has proven to me that we, farmers, can once again believe in agriculture and that we are also capable of helping improve the environment in the country.”
The SRI method was first introduced by the FtF West/WINNER project in 2010 in the project’s intervention areas, including the Cul-de-Sac plain, where Leo lives. The project prepared demonstration plots to illustrate to farmers the superior results of SRI. With a traditional rice plot planted next to one using the new SRI technique, farmers were able to witness first-hand the difference in yields produced.
For the rice farmers in FtF West/WINNER’s intervention areas, this difference represents the potential for a better future and improved way of life, something that Leo and his family have experienced themselves. With the work of successful farmers like Leo, who are helping to promote the techniques within their communities, farmers will continue to see improved futures and living conditions, even after the FtF West/WINNER project ends.