Category Archives: News

New Beginnings!

As part of ISCA sustainability efforts, project staff in Haiti identified the need for producing local laying hens. To address this, ISCA members were in Haiti a month ago to assist local project staff in establishing a small egg hatching pilot, with the goal of having the ability to replace the laying flock. Two incubators were set up in the Agro shop, eggs collected by the project’s agrologist (Kency) and under the care of the shop keeper (Wilfred) while in the incubator. We are excited that the pilot has been a big success as you will see from these new arrivals! Thanks to the hard work of Kency and Wildred!Update Written by ISCA-AIDC Chair Lloyd Dalziel 

 

ISCA-AIDC Update: Supporting Dairy Farmers in Ukraine

Small-holder farmers in Ukraine face many challenges, primarily limited access to land and financial capital. These challenges prevent farmers from improving their incomes, and even a small investment in these small-holder farms could have huge rewards for farmers and their families.

Almost a year ago, ISCA-AIDC team members travelled to Ukraine and visited Chalice Canada’s sponsor sites in the communities of Lviv and Ternopil. The purpose was to visit with farm families to discuss how and where Chalice could support farmers to improve family incomes. Since returning to Canada, ISCA has been busy preparing a business plan for what we identified as the best chance for success and the largest benefit for a broad segment of the farm community – a dairy processing facility.

The business plan, which consists of two distinct phases, would see small dairy producers sending milk to a local processing plant. The plant would provide benefits through increased returns to the farm families, but also through local employment at the plant itself. ISCA is eager to assist Chalice with the implementation of this exciting project. An update on next steps is coming in April. Check back to hear more about this project, and how it is progressing!

 

Blog Entry written by ISCA-AIDC Chair, Lloyd Dalziel

Where are They Now? Former ISCA-AIDC Volunteer Jean-Christophe

My name is Jean-Christophe, and I worked in Terrier Rouge for almost one year, starting in September 2016. I was offered ISCA-AIDC’s internship position of Business Development Coordinator after graduating from John Molson School of Business in Montreal with a Bachelor of Commerce in International Business. I can say right away that the theory of international business I learned in school was extremely different from what I experienced in Haiti.

Our objective as interns was to expand the chicken cooperative that was launched about one year earlier. Our first task was to increase the number of members. This was done by selecting families that would join the cooperative. Once the families were selected, we started the construction of chicken coops on their land and trained them in basic business administration skills, such as accounting, and chicken farming techniques. We also improved the finances of the cooperative project as a whole, since there were two full-time employees on the payroll. We decided to launch a community shop that would meet local demand for agricultural and livestock farming tools and supplies. The full-time employees would work at the shop during the day. While I was there, sales grew and the employees, Kency and Wilfrid, tried out different marketing tools in the community, fostered relationships with various suppliers, and built a solid client base.

I also helped developed business skills for our women’s jam-making start-up, called ‘Onz Manman.’ The start-up was launched with women in the community, along with my fellow intern, Marie, and a volunteer food processing expert named Carol Ann. The ladies were well organized and were able to work together; we only needed to make sure the sales were kept up.

Working in an environment with such limited resources and daily challenges taught me a great deal. It set the bar very high for what would now become my definition of a ‘difficult situation’. Learning to find ways to make things work, even when things do not go according to plan – a common occurrence in Terrier Rouge – is a skill that is useful everywhere. My level of Haitian Creole also improved and was quite useful, especially when negotiating with various contractors and business partners.

Haiti is notorious for being difficult to work in, even among developing countries. When I talk about my experience with others, I often see surprised reactions and praise for the work I have done. However, it was the breadth of responsibilities I had that taught me many organizational and management skills. Managing the development of the chicken cooperative required so many skills that I had no choice but to learn and improve everyday, which I could have never done without the help of the local staff.

I often explain to people that Haiti is so much more than what they see on the news. My biggest advice for future volunteers, or anyone planning on visiting Haiti, is to not to get caught up in the sensationalistic news reports that portray Haiti as a grim place. I can promise you that by showing a genuine interest in the people, their culture and their language, you will see how beautiful Haiti is. Although Terrier Rouge is the best place in Haiti, do visit other corners of the country. Jacmel and Kenscoff (near Port-au-Prince) were among my favorites for longer trips, but nearby Cap Haïtien is perfect for day trips or a weekend getaway.

I am now studying Computer Science in China, but I still talk to some of the friends I made in Terrier Rouge and still cannot get enough of Haitian konpa music. I sometimes feel nostalgic, so I set up an email alert notifying me of cheap flights from Shanghai to Port-au-Prince… just in case!

Blog entry written by former ISCA-AIDC volunteer Jean-Christophe

Where are They Now?- Former ISCA Volunteer Isabelle Kim

     Hi there, I’m Isabelle and I hail from Toronto. After completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international development, I had the privilege of working with ISCA as a value chain and agribusiness coordinator from 2015 to 2016 in the town of Terrier-Rouge, Haiti. As I stepped off the plane to land in Haiti for the first time ever, it felt quite humbling to know Haiti’s incredible history as the first black country in the world to win independence from colonial control, and the many challenges it has encountered in building a stable and prosperous country. Naturally I was excited but also very nervous to find out how I could help contribute to ISCA’s community development projects in rural Haiti.
   The next six months consisted of supporting the implementation of ISCA’s community livelihoods plan, by coordinating a poultry cooperative project where local families would receive assistance in raising and selling chickens, and the establishment and capacity building of a local fruit processing group, who would make products such as fruit jam for sale both in Haiti and abroad. Of course there were unexpected challenges encountered along the way – these included delays and changes to project timelines and implementation plans, due to breakouts of political protests that made it unsafe to travel on the roads, or the volatile national economy that resulted in significantly increased price of materials needed for the project. But as with anything in life you need to make lemonade out of lemons and these issues helped me realize the importance of having a back-up plan for any aspect of a project.
   Some of the most rewarding parts of my role included delivering training sessions on business and financial management to the cooperative members, which covered topics such as maintaining a cashbook, concepts of income and expenses, and the benefits of and ways to organize an agricultural cooperative. Sitting with participants ranging from high school students to elderly men and women, I came up with training materials that both illiterate and literate participants could follow such as role-playing and the use of symbols. While most started off with no prior business experience and initially struggled to understand the cashbook concepts, by the end of the courses they were able to conduct simple bookkeeping to sustain their businesses.
    In my current role as a social safeguards consultant with a consultancy, I’m involved in social monitoring, due diligence and impact assessment projects to provide social safeguard protection and enhance social and community development benefits in pursuit of sustainable infrastructure projects. This position entails trips on a regular basis to countries ranging from Colombia to Nigeria, and so I frequently come across situations where I’ve been able to put to use the lessons learnt through my work with ISCA.
   The unexpected project delays and issues that inevitably arise on such trips means being able to accept and adapt to new circumstances to best accomplish your goals is critical – a key lesson that was drilled into my head in Haiti. The work also involves getting a variety of stakeholders’ perspectives on the social impacts of energy and infrastructure projects. The range of baseline data collection and interviews that I conducted with local households and businesses throughout the ISCA project also helped improve my ability to communicate information and engage with individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences in a culturally sensitive manner.
   For anyone who gets the chance to work with ISCA’s Haitian projects, I would encourage you to go with the expectation that some things will inevitably go wrong as is possible with any project – so always have a Plan B in mind and go along with the flow. And enjoy your time there because you’re getting the opportunity to experience a country as unique as Haiti – take full advantage of it!
Blog Entry written by Former ISCA-AIDC volunteer Isabelle Kim

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!