When Valentine Abe first arrived in Haiti from Ivory Coast 15 years ago, he was shocked to see that a country so plentiful with water offered so little income to fisherman. He sought to establish a hatchery that could provide livelihoods to farmers throughout the country. Fish cage culture is one of the most viable options available for quickly restoring relative prosperity to small fish farmers. 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, outside of Port-au-Prince, President Clinton was inspired by the business model — a hatchery run on solar and wind power that produced fingerlings that local farmers could raise inexpensively in cages. “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 who could help local farmers with microfinancing, and establish markets for the fish.
Valentine then made his own commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative 2010 Annual Meeting: to provide 350 small fish farmers with cages to raise the fingerlings, feed, and educational training. This will enable the farmers to increase their income level from $400 to more than $2,000 annually, while also improving nutrition for more than one million people.
To help him achieve his goals, the Clinton Foundation helped Valentine locate 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 food sources. The Foundation also helped secure $250,000 in financial support from the Brinks Foundation and found a market for the fish — they will feed patients at a local hospital run by Partners In Health. Construction has been completed on the second fish farm, and the hatchery is already operational. The farm stands out on the Boucan-Carré River as one of the few sources for fresh, drinkable water for the area and as center for opportunity and community investment. “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.”
Valentine was named one of TIME Magazines 100 Most Influential People of 2010. And in 2011, Valentine won Digicel’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.