Fruit Processing in Terrier-Rouge

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!

Fruit processing Group with certificatesFrom 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)

 

Orevwa pou kounye a Ayiti! / Goodbye for now Haiti!

And that’s the end of that chapter – as of May, I’ve completed my six-month internship with ISCA in Terrier Rouge, Haiti. It’s strange to look back and realize just how quickly half a year flies by, and at the same time just how much you can accomplish and learn about yourself, Haiti, jam, chickens, and development in that period.

I learned that you always, always need to have a Plan B – you can prepare for activities like carrying out field visits, capacity building sessions and buying materials, but there will be circumstances out of your control that will delay your work. In Haiti, most of that involved political demonstrations that made it unsafe to go out on the streets at times, the unreliable internet connection, and the rise in the cost of goods and services due to inflation and the fluctuating exchange rates.

I learned that respect is a universal language – that is, treat others with respect and people will appreciate it and return the favour wherever you are in the world. Even through language and cultural barriers, I was able to form meaningful connections with Haitians who welcomed me into their country with open arms, for which I’ve been incredibly grateful.

I learned that international development work is what I want to be doing with my life. It has its share of challenges and frustrations, sometimes leaving me feeling hopeless about the IMG_7246 (2)countless obstacles to poverty reduction that no one person can seemingly address. But having seen the positive difference that ISCA’s livelihoods project has made for many families here, it reminds me that development work can have a genuine purpose and impact.

It’s been an honour to work with the families as they moved along their journey to become successful poultry entrepreneurs throughout the past six months. While my contract has finished, I’m looking forward to staying updated on the project’s progress and helping ISCA out whenever I can. I’m also hoping to make it back to Haiti one day so I can explore the rest of the country – it may look small on the world map, but it’s sure filled with rich and diverse foods, sceneries, and cultures.

Mèsi anpil Haiti for all the memories and experiences that I’ll never forget, and may the project participants continue to have great success with their chickens

Isabelle Kim was an intern with ISCA-AIDC throuogh Global Affairs Canada IYIP Program

When life gives you mangoes – make mango jam!

Another component of ISCA’s community livelihoods plan includes 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. Haiti is one of the world’s top 20 mango producers, but the surplus supply often goes to waste and is thrown out. So what better place to make use of the extra produce to make value-added products that can be preserved and sold in Haiti and overseas?

 For this, ISCA worked with Chalice to find a group of women in Terrier Rouge who were interested in participating and recruited Carol Ann, a Canadian food scientist with expertise in food processing, to carry out training sessions on jam making with the group.

It turns out that jam making in a country like Haiti has its own set of challenges – not only did we have challenges finding local sources of materials like bottles, but the participants had no prior experience with using kitchen equipment that we Canadians tend to take for granted like a stovetop, thermometers, and scales, or the mathematic calculations and formulas needed to measure out ingredients.

But throughout the sessions held over the course of six days, I saw a transformative change in the women participants. What started off as casual interest in the concepts Carol Ann was teaching – basic sanitation and hygiene, food safety, pH levels, sugar content and more – evolved into genuine excitement and engagement in the jam-making process as the days went on. By the end of the training, I saw an impressive, confident group of women with great knowledge of how to use various tools and calculate the right quantity of ingredients, and an active interest in continuing to apply the skills they gained to experiment with making jam from other local fruits.

 Over the next few months, ISCA will continue to work with Chalice and the group to create a sustainable business model for the fruit processing activities. I can’t help but feel hopeful that the training provided by the always enthusiastic Carol Ann has built the foundation for a new and successful business venture for the group. At the very least I can personally attest to the excellent taste and quality of the mango jam that the women made, having devoured numerous bottles of them!

Post written by Isabelle Kim, who is an intern living for the past six months in Terrier Rouge

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!