The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) commits to scaling a proven business model in Haiti that recognizes small-scale or 'smallholder' farmers as entrepreneurs and will transform 2,000 of them in the St. Michel de l'Attalaye area into a self-financing engine, driving economic, environmental, and social change.
The key is turning trees a year planted by these farmers into a bio-currency they can use to pay for the improvement and expansion of organic agriculture; volunteering to tend tree nurseries and transplant the resulting seedlings onto their own and community land earns farmers the seed, tools and training that results in up to 50% higher crop yields. Trees in the ground become more valuable than trees cut for charcoal because they lead directly to higher farm incomes.
SFA and its team of agronomists will work alongside and train farm leaders to establish the combined operation of planting trees and improving agriculture; these leaders, in turn, will train other farmers, ultimately impacting 2,000 farmers directly. And after three years of externally-funded training and joint management with SFA, the operation will become an independent farmer-owned-and-managed business in the form of an agroforestry cooperative. SFA will continue to have an advisory role and assists with marketing of farm output, but once independent, the cooperative will be run by an elected board.
Social change in this model begins with improving the status of women farmers. When husbands and wives farm jointly, they are equal and separate members of the cooperative. An in-house micro-credit program will offer loans and basic business training exclusively for women farmers. And the cooperative by-laws will ensure gender balance on the elected board of directors.
SFA has tested this model through a successful pilot project that resulted in a 2,000-member agroforestry cooperative in the Gonaives area that now produces one million trees a year and has significantly improved farm income.
SFA will use eight main activities concurrently over three years to transform 2,000 smallholder farmers into the owners and managers of an agroforestry cooperative in St. Michel de l'Attalaye.
- Improving agricultural productivity by 40-50%, depending on the crop, through a combination of training, tools and high quality seeds
- Planting trees and providing training in agroforestry practices leading to a permanent capacity of one million trees a year
- Nurturing leadership and building management capacity so that the farmers take over the operation of the cooperative
- Providing support for women farmers so they are ensured a leadership role, receive training and get access to micro-credit
- Diversification of agricultural activities to increase income and build resilience
- Environmental education for the children of farmers so that the next generation values trees and protects nature
- Developing marketing capacity to ensure the farmers have the ability to sell their output
- Expansion of off-farm income by providing products and services to farmers and area residents that are not currently being offered.
The overall three-year operation is broken down as:
Phase 1 (October 2013 to December 2014): Setup & Core Program
Phase 2 (January to December 2015): Expansion & Full Program
Phase 3 (January to September 2016): Consolidation.
Each of the eight activities, organized into these three phases, has been set out in a three-year timetable with specific deliverables (available separately).
Low agricultural productivity and widespread deforestation in Haiti are inextricably linked and have worsened in sync over time.
Despite having just over one million farms to feed 10 million people, the Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the country imports 58% of its food (including 6% as food aid) and nearly a third of the population is considered food insecure. According to the World Food Programme, one in every 5 children suffers from chronic malnutrition.
Having only 1.5% tree cover has permanently changed the climate, resulting in a rise in annual mean temperatures, measurably less and more irregular rainfall and the loss of 10,000-15,000 hectares of once-fertile topsoil every year (New Agriculturalist), which directly impacts agricultural productivity. In the 1990s, agriculture accounted for 40% of GDP, a figure which now stands at just 25%, according to USAID.
Lower productivity drives farmers to supplement their income by cutting trees to sell as charcoal. Fewer trees results in reduced farm productivity, which leads to fewer trees and reduced farm productivity. The cycle is endless and only getting worse.
Another contributing factor is that while women represent close to half of the agricultural workforce, they are consistently underrepresented in farm management, training and access to credit.
Financial resources are being sought, along with technical support for the development of an impact assessment model designed to measure the agricultural, forestry, economic, environmental, and social progress resulting from this SFA commitment.
SFA will create step-by-step guidelines on how to implement this business model, and to make this available as open-source training material.