APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Groundswell focuses on strengthening local leadership and farmer organizations through a practical, 'learning by doing' approach that allows people to address their basic needs and improve their livelihoods. Their methodology is based on decades of experience and lessons learned. It includes:
- Facilitating the formation of many solidarity groups (gwoupman) of 8-15 women and men in rural communities. Each group pools and is responsible for savings and seeds, and learns skills to manage and multiply these resources. These groups allow for the development of a wide base of local leadership.
- Supporting these groups to form coordinating committees at the village level and to constitute inter-village farmers' organizations.
-Strengthening the skills of these local farmers' organizations to identify needs and opportunities, and to plan and manage activities that improve agricultural production, generate income, build savings and credit cooperatives, and improve health conditions.
- Providing training and support to farmers to experiment on their farms with sustainable farming practices (soil conservation and improvement; water management; improvement and storage of local seeds; diversification of production; improved storage of harvests). Successful practices are spread farmer-to-farmer.
- Providing training and support in the formation of savings and credit cooperatives. Families escape the cycle of indebtedness to money lenders, and increase their own savings. They reinvest savings in more productive agricultural and income generating activities.
- Providing training and support to improve knowledge and practices to prevent disease (including cholera) and improve community health (potable water treatment, latrines, improved hygiene practices, improved nutrition practices, reproductive health, etc.)
- Systematically strengthening the organizational capacity of local leaders and farmers' organizations to manage and sustain the cycle of positive change, as we gradually phase out of our support role over 5-7 years. Local confidence and skills grow as tangible benefits are generated by community members themselves.
-Local farmers' organizations improve are more resilient in the face of natural disasters, epidemics such as the cholera outbreak, increases in food prices, or other challenges.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Groundswell will support the formation and strengthening of eleven additional farmers organizations from 2012-2016. The planning, monitoring and evaluation process is managed as a learning cycle, with the farmer's organizations trained to use participatory methods to improve practice and outcomes.
A general timeline is:
2012: Identify priority rural communities; support formation of solidarity groups (gwoupman); facilitate needs assessments; initiate agricultural, savings & credit, and health activities.
2013: Continue to form gwoupman; form village level committees to manage agriculture, health and savings & credit activities; strengthen and diversify agroecological farming and community health practices; spread these practices to more families.
2014: Support village committees to organize a general assembly and formally constitute an inter-village farmers' organization; continue to strengthen local capacities to manage the activities and development process; continue to provide technical support to strengthen agricultural and health activities.
2015: Strengthen local farmers' organizations to expand, improve and self finance their activities and broaden their membership in order to benefit to more people.
2016: Work to transition out of direct support and connect local farmers' organizations to other resources, services and markets.
Deliverables by 2016 include:
- 11 farmers organizations (representing 120,000 people) constituted and able to operate autonomously to promote local development
- 10,000 rural families (60,000 people) increase their food production by 75% and their incomes by 50%
- 20,000 rural families (120,000 people) will have access to clean water and safe sanitation
- 11 savings and credit cooperatives will be formed, benefitting 10,000 families (60,000 people)
Haiti's countryside has been impoverished by centuries of extraction and exploitative or ineffective government policies. This has led to a steady historical pattern of deforestation, soil erosion, and increasing rural poverty - driving many rural people to migrate to cities where they live in vulnerable conditions. The lack of a decentralized development model has long been a huge obstacle to Haiti's progress as a nation, and was an important contributing factor to the massive level of death and destruction caused by the January 2010 earthquakes.
As the Haitian Government's post-earthquake 'Action Plan for the Reconstruction and National Development of Haiti' (March 2010) states, 'Soon after the earthquake, it was evident that such a (level of damage) could not be the outcome of just the force of the tremor. It is the result of: excessive population density;
the catastrophic state of the environment;
unbalanced distribution of economic activity, with over 65% of economic activity and 85% of fiscal revenue concentrated in Port-au-Prince.' The Plan goes on to state that 'Today, agriculture remains the largest employment generator sector in Haiti: it occupies over 50% of the workforce. (Authors note- many estimate it as high as 70%). Therefore agriculture is one of the pillars of the country's stability, an essential axis of its development. In the past, Haiti fully met the food needs of its population. This is no longer the case today: The country currently uses about 80% of its export earnings just to pay for food imports.
Agriculture, livestock and fisheries, together constitute one of the primary forces of economic revitalization and recovery of regional and local economies.'
Healthy, viable rural communities able to produce food for themselves and urban consumers, to regenerate the natural resources base, and to generate rural employment and livelihoods, are necessary to rebuild Haiti. To achieve this, strong local farmers' organizations must take a leading role in regenerating agricultural production, employment and health in rural communities. They must do so using farming approaches appropriate and sustainable for family farmers. Sustained change will not come primarily from external actors or short term projects. Groundswell and PDL strengthen farmers' organizations to lead sustainable local development process.