We’ve come a long way, chickens!

What a hectic few weeks it’s been! Working with Chalice, ISCA selected the seven new families who would be joining the poultry enterprise project across Terrier Rouge and Grand Bassin. The new coops were also completed ahead of schedule, thanks to the hard work of Theodore who joined us from the Chalice South site to lead the construction, as well as local carpenters Wilfrid and Fidere.

The first set of meetings we held with the new families helped me realize just how far we’ve all come along in the project. The participants, ranging from teenaged students to the elderly, had a wide variety of questions – what temperature is best for the baby chicks, how often to clean the coop, when to start selling the chickens, and many more. And in contrast to when we met up with the first set of families during my first couple of weeks in Haiti where I was eager to learn the answers to these questions as a newcomer to the project myself, I was able to help the families with their concerns, and also give them plenty of encouragement about the new challenges and opportunities they may encounter throughout the project.

Photo1The original ten families have also seen plenty of progress. When we interviewed each household on how they’ve used the income gained from the first cycle of chicken sales, answers ranged from paying for their children’s school fees, starting new business ventures, buying new livestock, and opening up bank accounts. Having gained a taste of the success that can be made from their chicken enterprises, the families are clearly eager for more – they have plans to open up a cooperative bank account to pool their resources together, to buy supplies like livestock vaccines.

We’ve come a long way indeed from November, when both the participating families and I were relative newcomers to the exciting world of poultry enterprises!

Post written by Isabelle Kim. Isabelle spent six months in Haiti as part of an internship sponsored by Global Affairs Canada

The Rewards of Development Work

After almost five months into this position, there have been days where I couldn’t help but think that development project work mainly consisted of lots of motorcycle rides across rough terrains, moving at a snail’s pace in the scorching heat as locals look on in amusement, and sometimes hilarious misunderstandings as I attempt to work through language barriers. But then I come across moments that remind me just how fulfilling this work is, and show that the positive difference the project is making is worth all the little day-to-day challenges encountered along the way.

I recently ran into Alina, an illiterate single mother responsible for six children who is a participant in the poultry enterprise project. She told me how thanks to the income she earned from the first cycle of our poultry enterprise project, she was able to start up other business activities including buying seeds to grow new crops in her garden. She was incredibly excited about her new ventures and learning about how one of our participants is reinvesting her money was incredibly satisfying for me.

As the project moves into its second phase, I’m eagerly looking forward to continuing to work with the participants to help them bring about even more positive change for themselves and their families

  • Isabelle

Wrapping up the first fill

The first fill officially finished on February 1st when all ten families completed their chicken sales. Even as some families experienced challenges with chicken illnesses and marketing difficulties, in the end all of them were able to sell off their chickens by the deadline provided and complete the first fill and still make a profit.

After the initial trouble the participants had in understanding concepts of income and expenses, it was especially satisfying for me to see that all of them had successfully recorded their cashbook entries with details of their chicken sales. The debriefing sessions we held with the families following the sales also showed their commitment and passion for their poultry enterprises, as they held lively discussions on the best ways to market chickens and ensure their healthy growth. Chick and feed orders have been placed for the next fill for delivery in early March, and the families already seem eager to start up their business activities again.

Next week, we will be selecting the seven new families to join our project. The challenges and successes that the first set of families have experienced will surely be great lessons for our new participants, and I’m excited to welcome them to our group of ‘chicken families’ soon.

Blog entry written by Isabelle Kim

And the chickens are off!

When we first went to visit the chicken families following the holidays, we were greeted by the sight of plump, grown chickens prowling the coops – a long way’s progress from the tiny little chicks that we delivered at the beginning of December. We held another training session on recordkeeping at the Chalice office to make sure that the families would be fully prepared to take on their chicken-selling enterprise. Through the use of props and roleplaying sessions, we showed them the steps to write down information on when, how many, and for how much the chickens were sold, incorporating the use of symbols to make sure that illiterate participants could follow along. With that, the families were ready to start off on their chicken-selling journey.

As we continue to track the progress of the participants’ sales, it’s been interesting to see how some families have shown off their marketing savvy by advertising their IMG_1728 - Copyproducts throughout their neighborhoods. We’re starting to realize that what’s even more important than the formal town markets in successfully selling chickens is marketing within the families’ neighbourhoods – when people hear about good chickens being sold, they make the effort to visit and buy the chickens directly from the chicken coops. It seems that word-of-mouth can make or break a business, especially in a rural setting. It’s a key lesson that we’ll be discussing with the families over the next few weeks to figure out the best marketing plans to use for their chickens.

Chicks delivered!

It is has been an action packed 7 weeks since Isabelle and I arrived in Haiti. Our whole work schedule was based around the arrival of the chicks which was planned for the 5th of December. We had a few setbacks along the way but none the less able to get everything ready with a few days to spare.

After the delivery being delayed by 2 days, the arrival of the 500 chicks was on Monday, December 7th. After having spent the better part of the day being in trucks and being handled these newly born birds made their final leg to their homes. We picked up them up in Cap Haitian on Monday afternoon and made our way back to Terrier Rouge and Grand Bassin where we distributed them, each family receiving 50. The families were all very excited as the project was taking a huge step forward.

Since their arrival the birds have nicely settled into what will be their home for the next 6 to 7 weeks. Eating constantly these birds are growing very quickly, tripling in size in the first week alone. They will take roughly 6 to 7 weeks from the date of birth to be full grown and ready to sell at market. This is a very short period during which we will be keeping a close eye on them. After having visited them just yesterday, I am proud to say that the birds are looking very healthy. I love visiting the families as you can see a glimmer of hope in their eyes and excitement in their voice. They have really taken on the raising of the chickens as a project of their own. It is great to see such enthusiasm about the project and am really looking forward to working with the families during the next 4 months.

chickLast week I received a phone call from one of the families in the evening. I had given the families my phone number in case of emergency. The mother was panicked about something and speaking very quickly in Creole. All I could understand was the word “dead” and “water”. So I reassured her that everything would be ok and that we would be visiting the following morning. So when I got to her house the next day, I asked her whether she had any chicks that had died. She answered with a “no”, thus confusing me. So in my broken creole I asked her why she had called. She went on to explain that she went to check on the chicks in the evening before bed and noticed one playing in the water tray. She was worried that since it was wet it might be get cold and die. So when she called she had asked me, me not understanding, whether she should take the chick out and dry it off with a towel. I smiled and at that point realized just how dedicated these families are to the project. I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with these amazing people and hope that I can offer them something in return for everything I have learned from them.

Looking forward to 2016 in Terrier Rouge

As the year draws to a close, I’m happy to be able to say that I’m looking forward with anticipation and excitement to ISCA’s upcoming activities in the new year. One of them is the fruit processing project – ISCA is planning on supporting the formation of a women’s fruit processing group in Terrier-Rouge that would produce a variety of fruit products for the Canadian export market. Given the high quantity of mangoes produced in the region, a good number of them goes to waste every year and processing is one way to take advantage of this surplus by creating value-added products. Since fruit production and processing are activities largely dominated by women, it’s also a key opportunity to provide women with a new source of livelihoods in a region struggling with high unemployment rates.

Starting in January, we’ll be recruiting participants for the processing group from among the graduates of Chalice’s sponsorship program, as well as a volunteer adviser to come to Haiti in February to provide guidance on fruit processing and export procedures. We’re also going to be exploring different options and ideas for the group such as the production of dehydrated fruit products. The new year will bring about plenty of new activities, adventures, and challenges for ISCA’s projects in Haiti and I’m looking forward to experiencing them all.

ISCA Shows Solidarity with Syrian Refugees

The refugee crisis continues to make headlines as the long civil war drags on in Syria. Millions of desperate people are fleeing from wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

One of ISCA’s commitments is to support communities and people around the world. Saddened by the plight of the Syrian refugees and in recognition of the hardship that many of these families will face even after having successfully made their way into a safer country, our Secretary-Treasurer David MacKay decided to become active locally. Together with our two ISCA interns, Isabelle Kim and Joe Elliot, who were on Prince Edward Island preparing for their imminent departure to Haiti, David organized a benefit folk music concert in Charlottetown in support of Syrian families being relocated to the island by the local United Church.

The generous spirit of the Islanders was once again made apparent with many local musicians stepping forward to offer their talents at the concert, which was held at the PEI Farm Centre on University Avenue. Despite inclement weather, approximately 40 Islanders were in attendance to enjoy a variety of folk music offered by Alan Tuck, Dino Dunsford, James Philips, and PJ Holden. It was a great evening and ISCA would like to thank everyone who contributed to it, not least to Phil Ferraro, General Manager of the Farm Centre, for continuously being supportive of ISCA and its events.

Phil Witcher, chair of the Trinity United Church Refugee Committee, spoke about the plans the church has to bring up to five Syrian families to the greater Charlottetown area in the next few weeks. He thanked ISCA for its fundraising efforts and provided information on how others could make a contribution. ISCA also took this opportunity to showcase its agricultural business initiatives in Haiti and to inform concert attendees about ISCA’s inspiring work with the Haitian communities.

As the refugee crisis evolves, ISCA will continue to show its solidarity for those in need and will work with other organizations to improve people’s lives. Thanks to all of our supporters for making such initiatives possible, and for allowing us to continue to be considerate of other people’s needs!

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ISCA Intern Isabelle Kim welcoming guests at the Syrian refugee benefit concert

                                                                                                                                                                            

“Piti, piti, zwazo fè nich li” (Little by little, the bird makes its nest; Creole proverb)

And little by little, ISCA’s efforts are taking roots, transforming Haitian communities with your support. Thank you!

Chicken Enterprise Takes Flight in Northern Haiti

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Chickens raised by a Haitian farmer in a coop constructed with support from ISCA

Haiti has experienced severe environmental degradation over the past three decades, leading to serious agricultural and economic decline. This decline makes it difficult and costly for smallholder farmers to try out more sophisticated agricultural techniques. The result is that farmers cannot keep up, and this once fertile nation now relies on imports for 50% of its food needs.

ISCA-AIDC’s newest project is a poultry production program that offers a simple solution. Our past assessments have shown that when it comes to agricultural production, the primary needs of smallholder farmers are access to good animal health care and strong knowledge in animal health production and management. That’s why we’re working directly with local communities and our partner, Chalice, to empower farming families to earn an income and develop business skills through chicken production. Thanks to a contribution from Canada’s International Youth Internship Program, there are also two Canadian interns on the ground in Haiti, working in the communities of Terrier Rouge and Grand Bassin to support the project.

Over the next few months, ISCA will help farming families in these two communities to establish a local poultry cooperative, construct chicken coops, and become trained in poultry and small business management. Beyond that, there are plans to construct a poultry hatching unit, produce chicken feed from local stocks, and process and sell locally-made food products. Throughout these activities, we will also train local community livelihood and veterinary agents, offer continual education and training, and conduct studies to measure the impact of our work. So far, ten families have been selected to participate. Our interns have already started training sessions and are helping families construct chicken coops.

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Family members in Grand Bassin and Terrier Rouge; some will be among the first ones to participate in the poultry enterprise

In this phase of the project, we have secured enough funding to construct chicken coops for ten families, but we’re ultimately hoping to include more than 25 families in future phases. Above all, we will continue to reinforce a cooperative approach of self-determination and leadership within the communities we work with. In this way, community economic growth will be more sustainable and new opportunities will be identified in a collaborative, participatory manner.

We’re especially thankful to our partners and supporters who have helped us to get this project off the ground, and we’re confident that with continued support, we can help more farming families become self-sustaining through chicken production in Haiti.

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Haitian cow on the road to Cap Haitien

Training underway in Terrier Rouge and Grand Bassin

This week, we held the first two training sessions on business management with the participating families in the communities of Grand Bassin and Terrier Rouge. David, visiting from ISCA in Canada, kicked off the first session with a story of potato farmers in Prince Edward Island who were able to make use of the cooperative model to increase their income and create new sources of livelihoods throughout the potato value chain. Through this story we showed the importance of the families in each community cooperating as a group – working together as a ‘chicken’ family, if you will, through the poultry cooperative.

The second session focused on financial recordkeeping and how to write down income and expenses – two very importance components of any business. Since many of the participants are either illiterate or have received little education, I came to realize that these were concepts that we would need to continuously reinforce and review over the next few months.

I’m excited to be on this educational journey with the families. I’ve already seen the benefits for myself, as I start to gain insight into what training methods work best for different participants including youths, the elderly, the educated and illiterate individuals. I also got a particularly satisfying feeling when at the end of the second session, participants thanked us for the training and mentioned how they could now see the importance of keeping records to make the most of their soon-to-be poultry businesses. A very positive step indeed in our work with the chicken families over the upcoming months!

Ground breaking week in Terrier Rouge

It was literally a ground breaking week here in Terrier Rouge as the first posts for the chicken coops went into the ground. I will get back to the construction of the chicken coops later on in the post but first, how we made it to this point.

In my opinion this past week was the most important one of this phase of the project. We made the final selection of the 10 families, 5 in Grand Bassin and 5 in Terrier Rouge that will be receiving chicken coops. After spending Monday and Tuesday visiting all the different families that were nominated to receive the coops, we had to make a final decision, on Wednesday. I believe that selecting the families is the most challenging and crucial part of this project. The fate of the project lies in the hard working and dedication of the families first and foremost. Isabelle and myself (Joe) will be following up with the families on a weekly basis over the months to come making sure that all is well. We will be answering questions and helping the families with everything from basic poultry care to creating budgets and developing marketing techniques. We are a support network for the families and the families will be responsible taking caring and tending to the birds on a day to day basis.

On Thursday we met with all the beneficiaries to talk more in depth about the project as well as get them to sign a contract. The contract committed them to the project as well as to abiding by a set of principles and values that are essential to the success of the project. On Friday we started construction of the coops. It was nice to get the first posts in the ground and get the construction phase started. After spending so much time planning and preparing, it was great to see the project take another big step forward.

postJust as we were packing up for the day, a swarm of kids appeared, looking over the hedge at what we were building. Lloyd and I were trying to figure out what was going through their heads. Our guess was that the kids were thinking of a million different uses for these chicken coop bases. Some that came to our mind were, soccer net and jungle gym. Luckily they are well secured in the ground so even if the kids are hanging off of them over the weekend they will not go to far.

It has been 3 weeks now since I arrived in Haiti and am finally adjusted to life here. The only thing that will take some more adjusting to is to the heat. If you mention anything to the Haitians about the heat they smile and say that 30 degrees is cold. Someone snickered at me this week and said that heat runs in their veins. Meanwhile I am constantly drinking the water and sweating it out almost as fast.

So far my experience has been incredible. I have met so many kind hearted people that have welcomed me into the community with open arms. Working with the families has been a great experience so far and am looking forward to working with them over the 5 months to come. I am slowly but surely learning to communicate in creole.