As the old adage goes, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. In embarking on a six-month internship in Haiti developing small-scale chicken coops for families, a small chicken hatchery, and an agri-business store, this quote has crossed my mind a few times. Nevertheless, upon arrival in Haiti and meeting families who have already received coops, I am seeing that this project is an exciting initiative in the community. The outcomes are promising, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Marie, a development studies graduate student finishing up my thesis. My thesis questions the relationship between female political participation and corruption, finding a correlation for all countries where data is available. Haiti is a specific country of interest for my research as they’ve implemented a quota to increase female participation in the public sector, yet there are currently no women elected. With another election scheduled to happen on Oct 9th, I’ll definitely be paying attention. When I’m not writing my thesis (which is more often than I’d like to admit) you’ll find me cooking, visiting museums, and attending nonpartisan political events in Ottawa, where I’ve been living over the past two years. Moving to Haiti is a jump out of my comfort zone. Here’s what my colleague, Jean-Christophe and I have been up to so far.
After flying into Port-au-Prince and enjoying our last night in an air-conditioned room for awhile, we made our way to Terrier Rouge in Northern Haiti. We were fortunate that Lloyd Dalziel, from International Sustainable Community Assistance (ISCA) was able to join us for the first week to introduce us to the incredible group of staff at Chalice Haiti North who are partnering with ISCA for this chicken production project. This project aims to create long-term sustainable employment for families that are part of Chalice programming.
Seventeen families have already received chicken coops and have been able to purchase a few cycles of 50 chicks to grow into chickens to market and sell. We had the pleasure of meeting these families who shared with us how the project helps them to pay for school and food, brings joy to their families, and enables their families to work together. However, there have also been challenges for some of the families – marketing issues, time constraints, and chicken health prevent some of the families from having enough money to purchase 50 chicks for the upcoming cycle. As other families have had to do in the past, these families will purchase fewer chicks, slowly building profit so that for the next cycle, they’ll be able to purchase more. It was important to listen to the concerns of the families, so we can build training sessions with their adviser Kency and help out the best way we can.
For the next few weeks, there’s a lot for us to do. We have to select families and build 10 more chicken coops, develop a plan for the agri-business store, find a location for our egg-laying barn, and organize a cooperative structure for the groups of families. Meanwhile there are bills to be collected, cheques to be paid, and local workers to be hired. On an ending note, I am sharing a picture of one of the coops where the family added a garden-level spot to eventually have space for more chickens. Seeing innovation like this demonstrates that the plan has hatched. Now it’s our job to work as hard as possible to ensure that this creates jobs, is sustainable, and increases earnings for the families.
Marie Dumont is working as a Value-Chain and Agri-Business Coordinator with ISCA partner Les Soeurs Notre Dame du Sacré Cœur in Haiti.