Category Archives: News

Haiti, On the Cutting Edge of Empire

Working in Haiti for four years changes one’s views about development and politics. When asked what Haiti is like, I usually respond that it is like the “real” world. The real world being, to a significant extent, the impoverished world, and also our world where greed and corrupt politics can rule the day. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way; even Haiti has seen periods of real hope.

In 1990, under the popular leadership of President Aristide (elected by a landslide vote), things began to change for the better. It was not to last. In 1994, possibly due to external pressures to liberalize importation policies, rice import taxes were reduced from 35% to 3%, the lowest in the Caribbean. While initially applauded in Haiti due to the availability of cheap imported rice, costs gradually increased and resulted in the decimation of local rice production. This agreement transformed Haiti from being self-sufficient in rice to a net importer and provided huge profits for foreign rice conglomerates.

This neo-liberal approach to relaxed importation policies is repeated throughout the world, in places where protected production models and organizations could support local production, resulting in strong local economies. While shifting the mindset of the international development community, and the many policies adopted by national governments will take time, it is crucial for smallholder farmers who depend on local crop or livestock sales.

Yet there is hope in Haiti. ISCA has proven through its work that sustainable agriculture is one of the best ways to move beyond the charity model. The charity model, while very necessary in emergency situations (such as earthquakes), does not work as a development method. Sustainable agriculture is one of the best ways to create local economic activity and employment. The ISCA poultry project in Northern Haiti has created four long term sustainable jobs while almost doubling the income of 27 Haitian families!

In the end, Haitians are no different than you or me. They want to live in a country where everyone has enough food, good housing, and fair wages so that they can provide for their family. ISCA’s work in Haiti has grown local economies, and as a result, brought the light of hope to the cutting edge of empire.

Blog entry written by ISCA Secretary/Treasurer David MacKay

ISCA travels to Ukraine

In January of 2015, ISCA was invited by Chalice Canada to conduct a community livelihood assessment in the community of Terrier Rouge, Haiti. This assessment resulted in a long and successful relationship for both organizations, one that has created thriving community agricultural projects supported by sustainable field staff and an agricultural supply store. It was in early 2017 when Chalice and ISCA began discussing the possibility of replicating this success to other Chalice field sites – namely Ukraine.

ISCA members, David Mackay and Lloyd Dalziel, travelled to Ukraine in May 2017 with Chalice Country Representative Randy Spaulding. Over a two-week period, we conducted a livelihood assessment in Chalice project sites of Ternopil and Lviv. The goal of the assessment was to determine if there existed natural, physical, and human resources that could be leveraged to provide livelihood opportunities for Chalice beneficiary families.

During our visit, we learned many things about agriculture, food processing, marketing, and the challenges and oopportunities that exist in each. The families we met were all master gardeners, growing and storing their own vegetables and cereals for their families. However, in many cases the family lacked access to capital or resources for intensifying production, or the organizational capacity to access higher yielding market opportunities. One opportunity that repeatedly presented itself was that of a dairy processing unit. The families we visited all valued the nutritional value of milk products and stressed the importance of buying and consuming local products. A natural advantage for many was access to high quality forages, which supported the dairy model by providing feed to ruminants (cows and goats). Milk production and dairy processing appears to be a value proposition worth pursuing, and both Chalice Canada and the Lviv site, together with ISCA, continue to examine what a future model may look like.

What most impressed both ISCA team members was the warmth and hospitality of the hard-working families we encountered. Each of these families had a unique story to tell us. However, the common thread that weaved through each story was their desire for a better life for themselves and their children, and their eagerness to work together to achieve this goal. ISCA hopes that our relationship with Chalice, both in Canada and Ukraine, continues to grow as we work together to support these hardworking Ukrainian families.

Blog entry written by ISCA-AIDC Chair, Lloyd Dalziel

How Sweet It Is: Jam Making in Haiti

About a year ago around this time, I was living in Terrier Rouge, Haiti, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the ISCA representatives to join us in Haiti for poultry and jam training. Meeting the team in Port-au-Prince after an overnight bus ride was exciting and there was lots of work to be done!

Fast forward to today, and I now cherish what I have left of the Rhum Punch Jam that I brought home from Haiti, and the occasional WhatsApp calls from the members of the jam group, Onz Manman, to remember my time there.

On ISCA’s visit in April 2017, the members of Onz Manman were brought to visit a local bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer in nearby Ouanaminthe. While tasting chocolate samples, the women learned about the importance of consistency, beautiful packaging, and marketing techniques. The members of Onz Manman can be proud that their jam sits next to these chocolates in boutiques around Cap Haïtien, and hotels including Mont Joli and Auberge du Picolet.

When I returned to Haiti for a vacation in August, I was pleased to see that stores are enthusiastic about our new 1.5-ounce jars, which are beautifully packaged into threes. The redesigned label includes the Haitian flag, making the jam a perfect gift for tourists to bring home after their travels. The jam has also caught the eye of store owners in the Cap Haïtien airport, the ideal location to sell.

I hope that Christmas brings in more jam sales for the members of Onz Manman. Even with the progress, there are hurdles ahead. Accessing jars, fruit, and labels is a logistical challenge. Bringing the jam to Cap Haïtien to sell and consign jars makes for an exhausting day. With continued efforts of ISCA and the members of Onz Manman, this initiative can help to supplement their income.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog entry written by ISCA Haiti intern Marie Dumont

The Man

Blog entry reposted from http://www.acic-caci.org/blog/category/internships

Wilfrid or as some call him “TI-Cabeau” or “Ti Son” is the most famous Handy man in Terrier Rouge. Marie and I frequently joke that he would be able to do absolutely anything, but we are also not really joking. I saw graffiti on walls calling for him to run as Mayor. He is, objectively, the hardest working person I have ever met (followed closely by my grandfather). He is 42 (he sometimes calls me ‘son’) although he looks 25, he has two daughters, Malou and Wilsa, with his wife, Ange-Getty, and would soon like to have a son.

The office where we work opens around 8:30, but I quickly realized that this was way too late for Ti-Cabeau. 7:30 is usually the time he comes in, meaning it’s the time I chug my coffee and start working, mostly out of pride. He sometimes comes in earlier, rarely later, the record is when he knocked on my room’s window at 6am to wake me up, rightfully so, as we had many things to do in the morning.

I was told before I arrived to stay away from daily wage and pay for piece work instead. Just like in Canada, people paid daily/hourly wage have less incentive to work faster, especially in construction work. I am sure everyone knows someone who would work just as hard if s/he was paid hourly or piece work for the very simple reason that they are hard workers. Wilfrid is one of those. After our arrival in September, we promoted him, and he now has to manage worksites, with a lot more responsibilities compared to his regular job he had for the past year. He has delivered and has been completing jobs way short of the deadlines, over and over.

Interesting enough, although he is a certified carpenter AND mason, he always refused to do any mason work. I was puzzled at first, since it would only mean more money for him but later realized it was due to a more profound cultural difference. A majority (obviously not all) of people don’t necessarily want to enrich themselves alone, but want everyone around them to have a chance to do so as well. Wilfrid’s rationale, as I understood later, was that by not doing mason works, he allowed someone else to be employed and make some money. It makes me think that although people were joking when asking him to run for mayor, politics in Haiti would certainly benefit from having more of these true Haitian cultural traits Wilfrid personifies.

Wilfrid also helps me a lot to find reliable contractors to do different type of work and negotiate with these contractors to ideally get more reasonable prices. The prices I’m getting are probably somewhere in between “Blanc” prices and Haitian prices, probably closer to “blanc”, but getting closer and closer to Haitians’ (at least I like to think so). He has also shown to be very protective of our projects and has no patience for contractors that propose ridiculously high prices, or try to re-negotiate contracts halfway through.

Work aside, Wilfrid and I always have fun hanging out. I met a ridiculous amount of people in Terrier Rouge because of him. I am insisting more and more for him to run for mayor and tell him I would help. As a joke, he told me that the main thing he would need to get votes is to stand by him and be white. I am very happy to have had the chance to meet and work with Ti-Cabeau, I consider him a great friend. This is a friendship that will continue way past this internship and will come back to Haiti to hang out and catch up with him without hesitation.

Jean-Christophe Taillandier is working as a  Value-Chain and Agri-Business Coordinator with ISCA in Haiti.

Many Thanks from ISCA

How do we support rural Haitian families in a sustainable way? That’s the question that has occupied interns, volunteers, and board members of ISCA for the past year as we continued to expand our work in Terrier Rouge. Thanks to your support, here are a few of our successes this year:

Hurricane Relief Update

In total, ISCA raised $2,900 USD to help those affected by Hurricane Matthew in October. These funds were used to supply 200 people with rice, beans, and cooking oil. As ISCA moves forward, we are looking at other ways to help these families, such as providing basic building materials to repair their homes.

Agro Shop Update

The Agro shop, which sells agricultural products that local families can use, held its grand opening in November. The shop has connected with the Jamaican-Haitian company Hi-Pro, which gives discounted rates for products. So far, the shop has already sold approximately 500 baby chicks. Profits from the shop will be reinvested in the families participating in our main poultry production product, who have formed their own cooperative.

Jam Project Update

The jam manufacturing project has generated a lot of interest, with 11 women participants making three different varieties of jam. The women have already received a large order from a local South Korean group. ISCA is hoping to find ways to help the women expand their manufacturing space and upgrade their equipment so they can continue to meet demand. Although jam is not part of a traditional Haitian diet, there is clearly an opportunity to build skills and create a product that can be sold in local stores or even exported.

Thank you for your support! Your commitment will help us build on our successes of the past year, and will mean even greater agricultural achievements to come in Haiti.

Participants weighing mangoes at the jam production facility.

 

Lessons from the Patience Bank

It’s only a 4 hour flight from Montreal to Port-au-Prince, yet the difference between the two places is dramatic. At first glance, it appears Haiti lacks what is commonplace in Western countries – chain stores! Whereas the streets of cities in North America are dotted with chain restaurants, massive grocery stores, and recognizable clothing store brands, the only chains in Haiti appear to be the Patience, Confiance, Rapidite, Ste Philomene, and Toto “banks” that line the intersections in nearly every town. Contrary to being local branches of larger banks, they are little gambling centers where you can pick 4 – 5 numbers in the hopes that your numbers will be selected for the big win. Actual banks are far less prolific in this country.

With an apparent absence of recognizable brands, it is difficult as a Canadian to completely understand marketing in Haiti, a skill we as interns were brought here to assist with for the poultry project. Standardized values that we have in Canada like consistency, message cohesion, and recognition do not necessarily apply in Haiti where one cannot simply get a Big Mac. Fortunately Kency, our local employee is attuned to how the Haitian market operates, and has suggested marketing techniques that we would never have known to consider.

img_6201One such idea was radio advertising. Terrier Rouge has a local radio station, where for 500 gourdes, one can make an announcement. Kency has used this to advertise his chickens. Other ideas are as simple as making a sign in your front yard, or talking to people in the community to let them know that they have chickens. At this point, when most of the poultry project families are selling their chickens live, this marketing is the most effective for the market.

Nevertheless, since being in Haiti, it’s possible to see that some brands not only are able to exist, but thrive as identifiable products. Of course, Coca-Cola is one such international brand that has penetrated the market, but on a local level, the dairy company, Let Agogo is an example of how a brand can become a recognized and trusted name. The yogurt drinks produced by the company are delicious, inexpensive (25 – 35 gourdes) and best of all, local. According to the company website, local cattle farmers bring their milk to the small factories, where it is tested and then made into small yogurt drinks. They are widely available and satisfy my daily craving for probiotics.

Our goal for the poultry project is to have similar recognition. Soon we will have a logo. We have been collecting designs from children and will determine a winner of the design contest soon. That logo will be painted onto the exterior of our Agro-Shop that is scheduled to have a grand opening on November 23rd. There will be agricultural products at the store that families can use. Our store is linking up with the Jamaican-Haitian brand HiPro, which will boost our recognition and give us discounted rates for products. The profits will be returned to the families engaged in the poultry project who have created a cooperative.

We are also working with a group of 8 women who will be making jam with the abundance of fruits in the country. Although jam is not part of a traditional Haitian diet, there is an opportunity here to build skills, and hopefully create a product that can be sold in local stores or even exported to Canada for sale in specialty stores. I noticed that at a grocery store in Cap Haitien, they had jam, but not mango jam, so I see that there is an opportunity to fill this gap in the market.

As we continue on with the project, it’s a good thing that the Patience banks lining the streets are a not so subtle reminder for us that at times we must be patient. This applies not only for working in Haiti, but in life as well. Good things can take time, and sometimes even when you feel as if so much progress has happened; there will be minor setbacks. Keep posted to see our progress – in November we head to Port au Prince to meet Lloyd, David, Carol Ann, Rudy, and Mary who will be staying here for almost 3 weeks. We are excited to show our efforts to the Canadian team!

 

 

Appeal to Assist Haitian Families

Good morning.

As we give thanks this Thanksgiving Day weekend, we ask you to also think about Haiti and the situation following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mathew.

First, I would like to update you on the situation: Our main project area is in a small town called Terrier Rouge in the North East part of the country. This area was largely unaffected by the hurricane. Our Haitian partner, Chalice, has a project site in Jeremie, the hardest hit area of Haiti. Little is still known as to the extent of the damage, but we have heard all the local Chalice staff in Jeremie are safe. However, our long time field worker and friend Theodore lives in Leogane, which is in the South West part of Haiti and hit hard by the hurricane. I would like to tell you a bit about the situation he finds himself.

As many of our volunteers and interns that have met Theodore would tell you, he is a very kind and passionate person, particularly when it comes to helping his fellow Haitians. Most of Leogane was flooded and many homes were either damaged or destroyed. Theodore has a large warehouse constructed on concrete in the centre of town that was fortunately not damaged. He has taken in about 26 local Haitians who have been living there since the hurricane. Most of them are unable to return home due either completely losing their home or the roofs have been lost. There is little food or water available and the living conditions are very difficult. Our interns commented that he sounds very tired and is becoming quite exhausted.

This is where we need your help! As an organization we do not have the capacity to deliver aid at a large scale level. We realize that we while cannot help every Haitian, we can help these families in Leogane that have come under Theodore’s care. Our intern in Haiti spoke with Theodore today and what is immediately needed is food, particularly rice and beans. After this the priorities are soap, Clorox tablets and corrugated metal for their roofs so they can return home.

We would ask you to consider on the Thanksgiving Day weekend to make a small contribution to assist Theodore to support these community members. ISCA and our interns in Haiti would assist Theodore in purchasing rice and beans in Port au Prince and deliver them to Leogane. If possible, we will also be looking at providing soap and Clorox tablets to prevent cholera and finally possibly some corrugated metal roofing to return these community members to their homes.

To make a donation to assist these families, go to http://www.isca-aidc.ca/donate.php. 100% of all donations go directly to Haiti where it is needed!

Thank you,

Lloyd Dalziel, Chair, ISCA, www.isca-aidc.ca

 

Ayiti, kouzen

Jean Christophe’s blog entry originally appeared at http://www.acic-caci.org/blog/category/internships.

Closing in on my first month in Haiti, I won’t lie: the first few weeks were not easy. Living in rural Haiti is far from everything I experienced so far. Luckily, local staff is extremely helpful not only for work but also to facilitate our adaptation to Haitian life and culture (and provide moral support when our street food choices are reckless). We live in a village with one of the fewest power outage in the whole country, meaning we only miss about half an hour every week or so, which is great.  We are also lucky enough to have an apartment on the second floor of our office. Very useful to maximize hours of sleep (even though the sun rises with the roosters around 5AM). Nonetheless, after a few weeks it started to feel weird only to go up and down the stairs to get to and from work. We do move around during the day, but I realized I needed to see the country a bit more.

Last week, I visited the Citadel of King Henri Christophe and it was one of the most amazing historical sites I’ve seen in my life. It is a fortress built in 1820 by the King of Northern Haiti, Henri Christophe (who was actually from Grenada) following independence from the French Empire, to be used in case of an attack against Haiti. The size of its defenses was unmatched at the time. Built on the top of a 910 meters high mountain, it was strategically positioned to be able to defend itself from every side, and even had constructions on surrounding mountains to prevent any weaker sides. It also had one of the greatest artillery at the time, a vast majority of cannons and ammunition stolen from previous occupying powers.

One of our main challenges was the food situation. All the food is located in the outside market. Obviously it’s all natural foods: vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, etc., with no processed foods like we mostly see in our supermarkets. It’s a great thing but it also makes things a little bit more complicated when making meals. I had absolutely no experience cooking with such ingredients, mixed with the fact that there is no place we could go out to eat, we have to cook every meal, which again, I’m not shy to say, was a pretty big challenge. But now I’m starting to realize that this challenge became an opportunity for me to develop cooking skills with limited resources, and although I’m not one to brag, the lentil soup I made a few days ago was objectively amazing.

At work, everything is running pretty smoothly. Local staff is extremely helpful and the project is moving forward, some parts at an impressive pace. We still have some adjustment to make, as Haitian culture is very different from Canadian culture, which can be felt throughout various work assignments, but with all the help we receive, I have no doubt that we will be able to complete all of the tasks that were assigned to us.

Updates from Haiti – A busy few weeks!

Greetings from Terrier Rouge, Haiti! My name is Marie Dumont, and Jean-Christophe (JC) Taillandier and we are the two interns working for ISCA on their poultry production project here in Northern Haiti. We were welcomed to the country with Lloyd Dalziel, director of ISCA, who took the long trip to Port-au-Prince from Charlottetown, and the even longer trip from the capital to Terrier Rouge with us. We’ve been introduced to our partners at Chalice, and have met the families who have received chicken coops from this project. With Lloyd returning to Canada after a week, the two of us has been busy selecting new families to receive chicken coops, ordering materials, and getting construction started. Now we are beginning our second week of work, and while a lot has been done, there’s still a lot left to do.

But first, I’ll explain how I arrived here. I’m finishing my Master’s degree in international development at the University of Ottawa. I’ve taken courses in foreign aid, economics, policy, theories of development, and politics. I have a strong academic interest in development projects, yet my résumé lacks experience working in this field. I applied for this internship, as I know it would help build my experience and skills as a development practitioner and would enable me to apply my knowledge for this project. This internship is through the International Youth Internship Program, funded by Global Affairs Canada, offering six-month internships to Canadian youth age 19 – 30 as part of Canada’s youth employment strategy. ISCA partners with the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC), which organizes some of our training and logistics. We had a fantastic week of training with the other 19 ACIC interns who, like us, were preparing to go abroad for the next six months. That training feels like it was so long ago now, but friendships were made that I am sure will last a life time.

img_5911Although training for this internship was comprehensive and thorough, nothing can prepare us for the work that needs to be done in Haiti. My first observation is that work can happen quite quickly in Haiti, with our orders coming in earlier than expected, the wonderful carpenter, Wilfred, working quickly and organizing other carpenters to help. On the other hand, small obstacles like the price of chicks suddenly increasing by 1 gourde (about 2 Canadian cents), intermittent internet outages (as we are experiencing now), an increase in the cost of gas, or an unexpected delay on the arrival of the chicks, can have greater impact than when working in Canada.

Here’s some of the progress that has been made. With the 17 families that already have already received chicken coops, eight would be receiving chicks. The chicks were to arrive Monday; therefore we thought we would work on the weekend to ensure we were prepared for their arrival. We went with their adviser, Kency, to get rice hulls, which the families use as bedding for the chickens. We are able to access the rice hulls cheaply, but getting it is a bit of a process. First, all of the bags must be collected from the families, as they are re-used every time. Then, with a trike buggy, we head to the massive hill of rice hulls. JC and I looked at the big hill, and the bags we had to fill, and wondered how all of these bags were going to be filled. Kency had a solution. The many children that were around the area gathered around the buggy and began filling the many bags with rice hulls. It was fun for them! After, Kency gave them a tip of 5 gourdes each. Then it was time to transport the 16 bags back to Terrier Rouge to distribute to the families. Needing to stop only three times because the bags were falling off, we finally were able to distribute the bags to the families in Terrier Rouge and Grand Bassin. As it turns out, the chicks won’t arrive until September 22nd, but at least we’re prepared

We’ve also selected 5 new families that will receive chicken coops on their property. Construction with Wilfrid and his team has begun. Arriving at 6:30 am when his shift started at 8 am, it was clear that he was eager to begin building. He hired two workers to help, and after the first day, the first coop was nearly done. He’s not finished two and onto the third. The families are actively helping in the construction. It is clear they are excited about having the coops.

Ayiti m’Sezi – Closing on the first week in Terrier-Rouge

chickAfter the first few days of meetings with local staff as well as current beneficiary families I was able to quickly get up to speed on the project; the development, the issues, the disputes, and of course the success stories.

From a very initial assessment I consider the biggest accomplishment the success that the project is experiencing so far. I know a lot of work was put in by all members and interns of ISCA in the first year, and Chalice was of great help both financially and on the field. Not a single member has failed or dropped the program, and although lots of bumps were encountered, families and staff have shown resilience and kept moving forward. In addition, our local coordinator for the project, Kency, has met and surpassed all expectation. Kency is a young graduate in Agriculture that was hired last year to coordinate and monitor all the families to make sure they take their job seriously. He also helps with the ordering of new chicks and feed from Port Au Prince and even implements ideas in line with the co-operative model: he collects money from everyone so they can pool their resources to get other materials useful to the husbandry of their chicken. In addition, he bought a backpack pressure washer and goes around the coops to wash them, the families simply have to buy the soap.

According to every single family member, he has done an amazing job of both helping families when needed, and this is obvious when you see the way he does his weekly reports from the past few months as well as his perfect record with his own coop. Despite his shy personality, it seems obvious that Kency has had a huge impact on this project’s success.

That being said, we still have work to do; the 10 new families we selected need to have their coop built, trained on husbandry, bookkeeping and marketing. We would also like to open an agro shop within a month with the help of our feed and chick distributor HiPro Haiti. Later we would also love to have our very own hen barn, operated and owned by the cooperative members, allowing them to buy the chicks at a lower price, and to pay various expenses through the profits made from it.

Blog entry written by Jean-Christophe – Stay tuned for more great updates on the exciting project activities in Terrier-Rouge