In April, I had the privilege of joining the ISCA poultry team as the advisor for their pilot fruit processing project in Terrier-Rouge. As mangos are in plentiful supply throughout Haiti, transforming the raw fruit into a shelf stable product suitable for commercial sale provided an opportunity to train a local women’s group in food processing techniques and the basic elements of food safety.
Needless to say, it was a challenging and rewarding task. First point of learning for Isabelle and me was learning about the distinct characteristics of the different mango varieties. Who knew that mangos purchased on the roadside en route to Terriere-Rouge were called “mango fil” for a reason… as the resulting trial jam, while very tasty, was fibrous and stringy! After this initial trial, we found the preferred eating varieties of Jean-Marie and Baptiste, purchased in the market, make excellent jams.
Training took place in the Chalice mission’s office and kitchen. Eleven women, participants in Chalice’s sponsorship program, gathered for 6 days with the mornings spent in the “classroom” and the afternoons in the kitchen processing mango jams. As is taught in many of the food safety training programs in Canada, the women learned about the sources, and prevention, of food contamination, personal hygiene practices and food processing sanitation. Processing raw mangos into pulp, calculating fruit pulp:sugar ratios, learning about acidity and gelation, filling, packaging and labelling comprised the technical component of the training. Learning to keep processing records and calculate the costs of production was an important lesson as well. All sorts of questions about the process were posed each day with the participants really showing how much knowledge they were gaining as the week progressed. By the 4th day of processing, making jam was a well honed practice!
From my perspective, the most challenging part of the training was conveying the technical concepts and terminologies into terms that could easily be translated into Creole. Lucky for me, I had an excellent translator who explained many of these words.
On the last day, we celebrated the success of the week. ISCA & Chalice presented each woman with a certificate of participation for their dedication and passion for the training and finally, we tasted the sweet fruits of our week long labour.
Blog entry written by Carol Ann Patterson, Fruit Processing Advisor (The Pathfinders Research & Management Ltd, Saskatoon, SK)