Fish Farms: Fighting Poverty in Haiti’s Rural Communities
Dr. Valentine Abe has been working in Haiti for over 15 years, focusing his work and the work of his Caribbean Harvest Foundation on building up Haiti’s aquaculture sector. With a PhD in Aquaculture from Auburn University, Valentine arrived in Haiti and recognized immediately the potential for fish farming and aquaculture projects. Lakes in Haiti had been overfished for decades, and the fishing communities struggled to preserve their tradition and generate a decent income.
Valentine went to work and built a successful fish hatchery in the Croix des Bouquets area outside of Port au Prince. He developed the hatchery to include 36 solar powered tanks to grow fingerlings, which are then transported to fishing communities in the villages bordering Lake Azuei. The fishermen are given training, materials and fish cages and work with Caribbean Harvest to grow the fingerlings to maturity in the lakes. By increasing output, fish farmers can help combat both poverty and malnutrition in Haiti’s rural areas.
After visiting Valentine’s successful farm in Croix des Bouquet in 2009, President Clinton was inspired by the business model — “This is the biggest return on an investment under $1 million for people to chart their own course in life that I have yet seen,” President Clinton said about the project. President Clinton committed to helping Valentine expand his model to a second hatchery, find solar energy partners, and connect him to other nonprofits that could help local farmers with microfinancing, and establish markets for the fish.
To help him achieve his goals, the Clinton Foundation worked with Valentine to indentify a location for his second hatchery on the Boucan-Carré River in the Central Department of Haiti, an area much in need of economic development and new food sources. The Foundation also helped secure $250,000 in financial support from the Brinks Foundation and found a strong collaborator in Partners in Health. “The goal that we have of producing over 11 million pounds of fish within the next five years is reachable,” Said Valentine. “We can do it. We have the technology. And if the money is available then there’s nothing that can actually hold us.”
The new fish farm at Lashto is now nearly complete, and the hatchery is already operational. NRG Energy and the Solar Electric Light Fund worked together to provide an efficient system for solar power for the hatchery, and an innovative shade system that helps to lower overall energy consumption. Today, the farm is producing 10,000 fingerlings a month and this number will increase to 20,000 per month soon. Heifer International, The Spanish Corporations and Food for the Poor have donated a total of 86 cages to local fishermen and the Caribbean Harvest Foundation plans to donate another 100 cages within the next two years. With the Lashto Fish Farm in place, local area fisherman will be able to increase their income, and provide more food for their families as well as selling the fish back to local health clinics and school feeding programs.
Today, Valentine is focusing on how he can further expand the fishing industry in Haiti. He hopes to reach 2 million pounds of Tilapia harvested by the end of the year, with some 450 jobs created. He is working with partners to build a processing facility where he can clean and package the fish for sale to hotels and restaurants around the country. And profits from the fish sales are being channeled back through the Caribbean Harvest Foundation to support schools, clinics and community projects in the areas where the Foundation works.